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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER FOR DELUGE

After three days of steady rain, farmers have to be asking: Where was all this water when we needed it?

The summer drought that stunted the growth of a number of crops and forced many well owners to haul water gave way to downpours that began Monday and continued through Wednesday.

A total of 0.58 inches fell Monday, followed by 0.99 inches on Tuesday. Those are the highest daily precipitation totals for Buffalo since May 21, when 1.45 inches fell.

Another 1.24 inches of rain fell Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, with more expected today.

"Right through most of summer, we had nothing coming even close to this," said National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Paone. "The highest (daily total) we had in the summer was maybe a quarter-inch. This definitely is a very significant rain event."

How significant? In this case, all things are relative:

The 1.57 inches of rain Monday and Tuesday is nearly a quarter-inch more than was received in all of June.

Tuesday's total was 0.26 inches more than was received in all of July.

Put Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday together and the total -- 2.81 inches -- easily exceeds the 2.13 inches that fell in all of August.

Unfortunately, it comes too late for this year's growing season, said Alan Erb, Lake Plains vegetable production specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County.

"But what it does help with is anybody who is putting in cover crops that hold the soil and build organic matter in fields" over winter, he said, citing rye, wheat and clover.

Paone also said the deluge was enough to end the drought-like conditions that have plagued the area since June, but is still down from normal seasonal rainfall.

He said the rain was of the lake-effect variety -- "we'd be over 2 feet of snow if it was cold enough," he said -- and that the main band of precipitation Wednesday hung over the Erie-Niagara county line, meaning that rainfall totals there will be even higher than the official total registered at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Some leftover showers can be expected Friday morning, but Paone said the clouds should begin to disappear as the afternoon goes on. Temperatures are expected to stay in the 50s today and climb gradually into the 60s by the weekend.

e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com

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