- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

Official weather watchers agree that the thunderstorms Tuesday night and the occasional drizzles and sprinkles of the last couple weeks have been welcome, but have not eased drought in the region.
"It's going to take a lot more than a couple rains," said Erik Hagen, reservoirs manager for the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. "Things really haven't changed. … We're chipping away at the negative numbers, but it is not really enough to change."
"We're still dry; so much so, it's going to take a good amount of rain," said Jim Shell, water-resources coordinator for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which announced a "watch" status three weeks ago.
Two levels above that status is "emergency," which Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced early this month for the state. A little rain on March 18 postponed his trip to Frederick to declare emergency restrictions on water usage in Carroll, Harford, Howard, Baltimore and Frederick counties; northern sectors of Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, and Baltimore.
If drizzles cease and the sun shines warmly for a couple days, Mr. Glendening still plans to announce those restrictions, spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said Tuesday. Every time he is about to announce water-use restrictions, it rains.
"He jokes about that," said spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie. "He says he'll be happy to continue doing his part."
Like 1999, when Mr. Glendening announced the first drought emergency in state history, violators of water restrictions could be fined $1,000 and sentenced to jail.
"The rains of last week or so are completely insufficient," Miss Guillory said. "We're still nine to 11 inches below what we need."
No precipitation is in the forecast after Tuesday night's rain until Easter Sunday when, according to the National Weather Service, there is a "chance of daytime showers."
Tuesday night storms dumped 0.5 inches of rain on Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and 0.7 inches on Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
"Every time it rains, it's an improvement, but we haven't had enough to alter conditions," said Rich Tinker, meteorologist with the federal Climate Prediction Center.
Meteorological conditions hint that a normal amount of rain may fall in the next couple of weeks, which could result in a slow, methodical return to normalcy, maybe even raising groundwater levels a little, Mr. Tinker said.
Mr. Shell said the sprinkles have raised river and stream levels a little and "they are no longer setting low records."
Measurable rainfall through Tuesday noon was 2.51 inches for the month, a little less than average for March. Mr. Shell emphasized that much more is needed because 9.5 inches less than normal have fallen since September.
Another measuring tool is the rainfall at Washington Dulles International Airport. Mr. Shell said the average March rainfall at Dulles is 3.51 inches. With five days left in the month, not quite three inches have been measured there this March, he said.
"Nothing has changed the overall conditions," said Mr. Hagen. "Overall, we need a lot more."


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