The view from the parking lots as rain began to fall Friday at Beaver Island State Park told the story of this Western New York summer in the not-so-great outdoors.
Golf shoes were coming off. Boat covers were going on. And beach chairs were being tossed into car trunks.
"This is a perfect example right here," said Steve Sirianni, 38, of Lancaster, loading his family and their beach gear into a minivan after an abbreviated day at the beach. "It's just disappointing."
The clouds and rain were expected to return today, providing an appropriate end to what is shaping up as the cloudiest July in the 114 years the National Weather Service has kept such records in Buffalo.
Normally, Buffalo experiences 67 percent of possible sunshine during July, the sunniest month of the year. This July, the number will end up closer to a February-like 40 percent. It's also been wetter than normal. With one day remaining in the month, we've had close to five inches of rain.
In some parts of the area, it's been even wetter. The 30-year rainfall average at a weather station in Lockport for July is 2.9 inches. But Sanborn logged 6.74 inches over the last 30 days, and a station at Starpoint Central School measured 6.45 inches.
And it's been cooler than normal, by almost two degrees. For the period from May through July, there have only been 14 days where the high temperature was 80 degrees or better. Normally, that number is 32 days at this point of the year.
"The lowest number of (such) days I've found in looking back at the records for the airport is 15, and that was last year," said National Weather Service meteorologist Steve McLaughlin.
Bad weather has dampened sales at local businesses, costing farmers, contractors and the tourism business millions of dollars.
Stephen Sanders has lost 16 working days to rain on a roofing project he started in June at the State University at Buffalo's North Campus.
"You have to have an eight- or 10-hour window when it's not going to rain," said Sanders, president of Jos. A. Sanders & Sons of Buffalo. "You have to play it conservatively. You end up not working a lot of days and putting your jobs behind schedule."
The bad weather also means his employees are getting smaller paychecks.
"It has a major impact on their lives and their budgeting," Sanders said.
The weather has also ruined crops for farmers, especially wheat and hay.
"We are just starting to harvest wheat when the weather got worse and at least half the crop is not suitable for making flour," said Nathan Herendeen, a field crops specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.
The wet weather caused the grain at the top of the wheat plants to sprout, which ruins the quality of the crop. Wheat that has already sprouted will be made into animal feed, which sells for about one-third the price of wheat that's used for making flour.
"Across Western New York, at least half the crop is suffering that fate," Herendeen said.
The Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau says the cloudy and rainy weather has hurt tourism.
"By and large, when the weather isn't good and it's colder than normal and it rains, people don't travel as much," said Richard Geiger, president. "This summer has not worked in our favor."
Attendance at Martin's Fantasy Island on Grand Island is down 25 percent, said spokesman Mike McGuire. "Because of this, we are anticipating extending the season past Labor Day," he said. "We may be open a few weekends in September."
Martin's is also lowering the price of tickets purchased after 5 p.m. to $7, down from $9. "We're hoping that will pick up our traffic a little bit," McGuire said.
Family fun limited
Traffic was heading out of Beaver Island State Park on Friday afternoon after morning clouds gave way to showers.
"This has just been brutal," said Sam Reitano, a retired analyst whose round of golf at the park was cut short by the rain. "We had no spring, and we've had no summer."
After his voyage ended prematurely, boater William Zwack of Grand Island said chilly evening temperatures and cloudy skies have limited his time out on the water.
"We only go out for evening runs but it seems lately, as soon as the sun starts going lower, it gets down to 60 degrees, and people are cold so we have to turn around," he said.
Sirianni, who took a day off to bring his wife, Denise, and their three sons, 2-year-old Matthew and 7-month-old twins Mark and Thomas, to the beach, said the poor weather is limiting family fun.
"We've already used all of our ideas for rainy days," he said.
News Staff Reporter Bill Michelmore contributed to this report.
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