- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The rain keeps falling, the grass keeps growing, and many area residents are scrambling to keep pace.

The third-rainiest May since the mid-1960s has forced homeowners to plan their days around the gaps in rain clouds, while landscapers are overbooked and knee-deep in green.

“It’s been an unbelievable spring,” said Robert Dobkin, 61, a Reston resident who mowed his lawn in stages last weekend. On Saturday, he mowed the front yard, then waited until Monday evening for the rain to stop so he could mow the back yard.

“Every weekend comes around, and you cannot cut the grass. And it keeps growing,” said Mr Dobkin, a public relations specialist.

“Even when you do cut it, it still clumps up because it’s all wet. But it sure looks green.”

A total of 6.88 inches of rain has fallen so far this month, the average from National Weather Service readings at Ronald Reagan National, Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International airports.

That makes this May the third rainiest in the region since 1966, when records were first kept at Dulles. The post-1966 record is 8.06 inches of rain in May 1989, followed by 7.13 in May 1971.

The all-time May record for the area is 10.69 inches, set in the District in 1889 and 1953.

But don’t dismiss May 2003 as just another also-ran. Forecasters predict rain for three of the month’s last four days.

“The grass is growing, fast,” said Gary Bowles, president of J.B. Kline Landscaping in Gaithersburg.He said his 17 employees have been working in the rain, early in the morning, late into the evening and every weekend. But he says the company is losing money because of the washouts and because crews are slowed by the deep grass and weeds.

In Crofton, David Allen, owner of Father & Son Lawn & Painting Service, said he was 10 days behind schedule.

“I shouldn’t be mowing now, but I have no choice,” he said yesterday as raindrops began to fall. “It should be mowed once a week, but right now we’re lucky to get to [a lawn] every 13 days.”

Though most customers have been understanding, some think differently, and expect Mr. Allen to come out in the rain.

The rain has also made the grass so slick that J.B. Kline workers often avoid steep hills and bypass standing water to avoid injury.

Mr. Bowles said crews usually mow when the grass is about three inches high, but is now reaching five to seven inches on most municipal properties and residential lawns before being cut.

Some grass, he said, is as high as 10 inches.

“Once the sun gets to shining, it’s really going to take off,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it because it will dry the ground up and make things simpler.”

Andrew Furnkranz, 23, who mows yards in his Cheverly neighborhood for a living, said he has watched weather forecasts to take advantage of breaks in the rain, like those yesterday, to get outside and mow.

He also said the rain has made grass so dense that it takes more time to finish a lawn. Some of the yards he cuts grew four to six inches since he last saw them a couple weeks ago.

However, the rain has brought some good news. Mr. Furnkranz said it’s better than the droughtlike conditions of recent years.

He is getting calls from new customers, which should bring more money his way.


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