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For the record, dampened enthusiasm April hasn't been such a washout in 50 years, and there's more rain on the way

Ah, we all remember April 1961, exactly half a century ago.

OK, we don't remember it, but it was the wettest April on record in Buffalo history, with a whopping 5.90 inches of precipitation.

That record may fall this month, and it could be broken as early as today.

Through Monday evening, the National Weather Service office in Cheektowaga had logged 5.43 inches of rain and melted-down snow this month. That's more than twice as wet as the average April figure of 2.54 inches through the same date.

And it's only going to get worse. The forecast for the rest of the month: soaking.

The short-term forecast is a water-logged document, with every day listing "thunderstorms," "heavy rain" or at least a "chance of showers."

Forecasters were calling for roughly 2 to 2.5 inches of rain, just from Monday afternoon through Wednesday night, and showers then are expected every day through Saturday night, the end of the month.

"The odds look good [for breaking the record], especially with what we're seeing for the upcoming week," National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Hibbert said Monday. "Some of the cornfields look more like rice paddies."

Besides being an inconvenience for most people, including local high school athletes already slogging through lots of rainouts, the rain also provides a flooding hazard.

The National Weather Service on Monday morning issued a flood watch for most of Western New York, from 5 p.m. Monday through early this morning. The latest model called for about 1.3 inches of rain during that period.

Falling on already saturated ground, the new rainfall meant that localized flooding was possible in poor drainage areas and along small streams and creeks. Larger creeks and rivers also were expected to rise significantly, the Weather Service noted.

The wet April also has meant plenty of ponded and muddy fields, tough sledding especially for high school baseball and softball players.

The Buffalo News sports pages have been filled with the abbreviation "ppd." for postponed baseball and softball games.

About two-thirds of the Buffalo schools' softball and baseball games have been rained out this spring, leaving most teams with three or four games to make up.

"We're not devastated at all," Buffalo athletic director Aubrey T. Lloyd III said Monday. "We met this morning to come up with a revised schedule for the games we had to cancel."

The plan is to schedule some doubleheaders and also play on Saturdays.

A sign of the wet spring schedule: The Buffalo schools even scheduled some make-up games over spring vacation last week. They, too, were rained out.

Cynthia Bullis, athletic director for the North Tonawanda schools, couldn't immediately take a call from The News on Monday afternoon. She was talking to a coach about postponing games.

"We've only played, like, two baseball games and two softball games," she said. "There are only about 20 [weekdays] left in the season, and we have to fit about a dozen games into that time frame."

Weather records show how unusually wet it's been this April.

Since 2000, the wettest April here was 2005, with 4.50 inches of rain and the melted equivalent of snow. In the last five years, the most precipitation was recorded two years ago, 3.15 inches.

The wet April is all due to a stalled front that has left much of this part of the country dodging raindrops. Pittsburgh, for example, has been wet like Buffalo but has had quite a few more warm days.

"We're just on the wrong side of the weather fence, the cold and wet side," Hibbert said, in comparing Buffalo's and Pittsburgh's conditions. "We're sharing the misery of the moisture, but they've enjoyed the warmth more than we have."

The good news is that that warmth is headed to Buffalo, for at least a couple of days.

The Weather Service is calling for daytime highs in the 70s today and Wednesday, with overnight lows bottoming out in the 50s, before cooler weather returns later in the week.

Accompanied, of course, by expected rainfall, except for daytime Saturday, which could have a welcome sight in these parts -- mostly sunny skies.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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