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Heavy rainfall in July dampened crop production, outdoor businesses in Alle-Kiski Valley

Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
With temperatures barely hitting 80 degrees, Danielle Parke, 6, of Buffalo Township, takes advantage of a clear sky as she glides along the waterslide as her twin sister, Nicole, and (right) Hannah Hill, 5, of Allegheny Township, cheer her on at Sylvan Park in Harrison on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.

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By Braden Ashe
Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Heavy rainfall in July dampened crop production and outdoor businesses in the Alle-Kiski Valley, and a National Weather Service meteorologist predicts substantial precipitation levels to continue through September.

The Valley accumulated 7.59 inches of rainfall this month, which caused frequent flash flooding, according to the weather service, based in Moon.

It was the second consecutive month that rain exceeded monthly averages (4.06 inches) by more than 3 inches.

Area residents can expect chronic rainfall to resume in early August after this week's brief reprieve, weather service meteorologist Joe Palko said.

“I think we're going to see high precipitation levels and average temperatures all throughout August,” he said. “That trend should continue through mid-September, with above-average precipitation levels and normal temperatures.”

The Small Business Administration declared Allegheny County a disaster area on Tuesday after an assessment of property damage caused by storms and flooding between June 26 and July 21.

The designation may qualify Alle-Kiski Valley residents for low-interest disaster loans to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, according to a statement from the governor's office.

Outside work affected

July's high rain total in the Valley postponed several PennDOT maintenance projects, stunted agricultural production and shortened public swimming pools' hours.

Dave Hartman, assistant manager at Joseph Petrarca Memorial Pool (Vandergrift Park & Pool), said rainstorms forced the facility to close early seven times this month.

“We're looking at upward of $10,000 lost to inclement weather,” he said. “Between the cloudy days, subpar temperatures and rain closures, we got hit pretty hard in July.”

The average temperature in July was 74.6 degrees, which is within one degree of the monthly average.

The “subpar temperatures” that Hartman was referring to are a result of daily high temperatures that averaged less than normal, Palko said. Extensive cloud cover led to lower daytime highs, but warmer nights than usual.

With frequent yet sporadic rainfall this month — it rained 13 days over a 28-day period — outdoor businesses like White's Paving in West Franklin faced scheduling challenges. Joel Boguslawski, the paving company's general manager, said the weather caused delays and forced him to reschedule and cancel some projects.

“It's so streaky sometimes that it's hard to plan around,” he said. “It can affect the quality of the job sometimes, and it affects the amount of hours we can give out to our workers.”

Sustained rain unusual

Palko said it's atypical for Western Pennsylvania to face back-to-back rainy months during the summer.

The Alle-Kiski Valley accumulated 7.53 inches of rain in June.

Typically, storm tracks manifest farther north into Canada around this time of year, but they have instead soddened the Midwest and Atlantic regions of the United States.

The rainfall has not only drowned crops and slowed vegetable growth, but may bring to the area insects and diseases such as “late blight,” said Bob Pollock, a Penn State Cooperative extension educator for horticultural crops.

The “late blight” disease was responsible for the Irish potato famine.

The Valley News Dispatch reported this month that the damp-weather disease was confirmed to be in tomatoes in Westmoreland, Indiana and Somerset counties.

The Valley's high temperature reached the 90s on four occasions between July 15 and 20, but there was no rain.

“Usually, people have a hard time getting their grass to grow in June and July,” Palko said. “Now, I think people are mowing their lawns a couple times each month.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or

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