Western Pennsylvania precipitation on pace with wettest-year ever so far in 2019
Residents of Western Pennsylvania might want to invest in some rain gear, or maybe an ark.
After surviving the wettest year on record in 2018, the region is on pace to match that through the first 42 days of 2019.
Through Feb. 11, 2018, the Pittsburgh area saw 5.62 inches of precipitation, according to the National Weather Service in Moon. Through Feb. 11, 2019, there has been 5.15 inches of precipitation.
And with up to an additional inch of rain predicted Wednesday, it should be easy to catch up, said Alicia Miller, meteorologist and hydrologist at the weather service.
“That’s going to take us closer to, if not over, the amount we had this time last year,” she said.
The official precipitation total for the area last year was 57.83 inches. That’s the most in any year since 1937, when the weather service started keeping track.
The yearlong, relentless precipitation in 2018 caused problems for many including farmers and municipal officials. Landslides plagued the area, causing millions of dollars in damage. Those issues are carrying over into 2019.
Two homes in Squirrel Hill were evacuated Jan. 24 after land between them shifted. Repair work is underway in Sewickley and North Huntingdon townships after landslides damaged roads there.
The region’s farmers cannot take another year of precipitation cutting into profits, said Mark O’Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
“It could be devastating for a lot of farmers,” he said. “It impacted the planting season … it affected the growing season, it affected the harvest season.”
Every type of crop, from hay to fruit, was affected. Farmers typically don’t start planting until April, but they are preparing now for the 2019 growing season, O’Neill said.
“They’re not as concerned with what is happening with the weather today, but if you had a repeat of last year, it would be extremely difficult,” he said.
For many farmers, 2018 was the wettest of their lifetime and the year-long precipitation offered little or no chance to dry out. The previous rain record — 57.41 inches — was set in 2004, a year that saw remnants of Hurricane Ivan flood the region. Last year just squeaked in, breaking that record on the final day of 2018.
Miller expects the regular water-related road closures, such as the 10th Street Bypass in Pittsburgh, to start soon as rivers and streams are on the rise.
In 2018, Pittsburgh hit flood stage — 25 feet on the Monongahela River side of the Point — three times. That last happened in the 1930s, Miller said. Pittsburgh should see the rivers crest a few feet below flood stage with the current precipitation, she said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .