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Erik Burgess, Published May 31 2013

2013 so far wettest on record

FARGO – Shake off your umbrellas. The first five months of 2013 were the wettest on record in Fargo.

By Friday, 12.8 inches of precipitation had fallen in Fargo since Jan. 1, beating the former record of 12.62 inches set in the first five months of 1902, said Mark Ewens, climate forecaster for the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

More than a third of that fell Wednesday night and Thursday morning, when a storm system dumped 4.51 inches on Fargo. Another two-tenths of an inch came in sprinkles throughout Thursday, weather service meteorologist Bill Barrett said.

It all adds up to make the meteorological spring here this year – March, April and May – the second wettest on record, Ewens said, with 10.61 inches just across those three months. That record was again set in 1902 with 11.44 inches. The numbers this spring could still change, with numbers from Friday not totally tallied, Ewens said.

A rainy, cold spring is much more typical for the region than the warm, dry spring of 2012, Ewens said, and the metro is certainly feeling the effects of the recent deluge.

Many parks activities in Fargo have been canceled or delayed due to standing water and sloppy conditions, said Roger Gress, executive director of the Fargo Park District.

Activities like baseball, softball, golf and even routine maintenance like seeding fields and spraying dandelions can’t be done with the soaked ground, Gress said. Fargo pools are scheduled to open today, but Gress is unsure they’ll see much use with forecasts calling for weekend rain.

“Your heart breaks for these kids who have put in a tough year, and they’re looking forward to the summer,” Gress said.

Crops could also be hurt by lingering ponds of water, said John Kringler, extension agent for Cass County.

“It’s either in germination or seedling stage which, when you cut off the oxygen, could be detrimental to a plant,” Kringler said, adding that the extra rain can be good in some cases, considering how dry it was last spring.

The ponding water is also a boon for mosquito breeding. Skeeters will likely be a bigger nuisance this year than in 2012, said Ben Prather, director of Cass County Vector Control. The nearly 5 inches of rain in the past 48 hours allows mosquitos to lay eggs that will hatch in about 10 to 14 days, Prather said.

“There’s going to be some uncomfortable nights ahead. That’s almost without a doubt,” he said.

In Moorhead, crews have begun killing mosquitos in the larval stage where water pools, said Chad Martin, director of operations. Prather said the same is happening in Fargo.

Cass County residents can expect trucks to start spraying for adult mosquitos early next week, when eggs from a rainstorm two weekends ago will finally hatch, Prather said.

While last spring was drier than normal and allowed for fewer mosquitos, Prather said there was a “re-emergence” of West Nile Virus. Cass County had eight cases in 2012, and Clay County had four, Prather said. This year, there have already been a few cases of the virus across the country, including a fatality in California.

“We’re preparing for the worst,” Prather said.

The record rainfall numbers do have to be hedged a bit, Ewens said, because spring showers tend to be sporadically heavy. For instance, Fargo’s official rain gauge is on the north side at Hector International Airport, which was hit hardest by the recent rain.

“If the airport were located in south Fargo, (this spring) probably wouldn’t even be in the top 10,” Ewens said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518