The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Reflections: Seems as if raindrops are always falling on our heads

Feels like we’re living in a fish bowl of precipitation

By Mike Zielinski, Columnist

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Is it just me or is it usually wet around here?

Not that I’m big on droughts, mind you, but it seems as if we get precipitation two or three times a week every week. The last few weeks have reinforced the impression that we’re living in a goldfish bowl.

Guess what? It is a false impression, fostered by my love of sunshine and I have the wrinkles to prove it.

According to Weather Underground, Berks County had 43.29 inches of precipitation in 2017, just a drop or two above the annual average of 43.27 inches.

Those numbers shocked me. It seemed as if we sometimes got 43.29 inches in one week. Maybe there was a hole in the bucket they used to measure the rainfall amounts.

In retrospect the start of 2017 in Berks was on the dry side and the end of the year wasn’t soggy. But our soaked summer – June, July and August – was the sixth wettest in the 148-year precipitation database for Berks County.

Whenever a rare dry day popped up last summer, an army of lawn mowers attacked grass that apparently had been drenched with Mother Nature’s version of Miracle-Gro. For local swimming pools and golf courses all that rain was a bigger catastrophe than male pattern baldness striking the Rolling Stones.

Since 2017 in the United States was the third warmest in history, I’m surprised that we didn’t have heavy rain here the entire year.

From what the scientists tell us, a warmer climate spurs the evaporation of water from land and sea and allows the atmosphere to hold more moisture – thus setting the stage for more extreme precipitation.

The effect supposedly is similar to the difference between a warm bathroom and a cold bathroom: the mirror fogs up more when the air is warmer. Which is why I always shave before I shower so I don’t look like I just bumped into Jack the Ripper.

Unlike many places in the country last year, Berks County didn’t have an extreme precipitation event.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. last year experienced 16 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion, with total costs a record $306 billion.

Some of the more noteworthy events included the western wildfire season and Hurricanes Katrina, Maria and Irma.

Berks County hasn’t had an extreme precipitation event since we got 24 inches of snow spanning Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 in 2016, second all-time only to the 34-inch avalanche that dropped on us Jan. 7-9, 1996.

As of this writing, Berks has been spared a major snowstorm this winter. Of course, now that I’ve brought that up, expect the Storm of the Century to bury us with smothering snow at any moment.

An unforgettable extreme weather event I will never forget is the wicked hailstorm that ripped through Berks on May 22, 2014. The hail chewed up my roof, siding, spouting, garage door and deck, not to mention totaling my car while I was sitting in it.

Needless to say, I’ve had better days. In its wake I found it impossible to free myself from the quicksand of dealing with contractors and insurance companies. It all left blisters on my heart.

If global warming escalates, and it likely will since we’re not doing enough to address it, I fear that someday we may all wash away under a tsunami of precipitation.

Niagara Falls already has a big waterfall. We don’t need one in Berks County.