Despite a soggy start, May has average rain 13 days of wet weather gave way to a dry spell, confounding gardeners


The first 13 days of May were bad luck for garden store owners. Rain fell every day, driving customers indoors and muddying anticipated Mother's Day profits.

Since then, the weather has been dry -- and the cash drawers have been as green as the flower beds, gardening merchants say.

The month's streaks of downpour and dryness balanced each other out. Despite the wet start, the month ended with almost the average amount of rain for May, Scott Wendt, a meteorologist with Weather Central Inc. of Madison, Wis., said yesterday.

Said Wayne Clark, owner of the 40-year-old Worthington Gardens store on Butler Road in Glyndon, "It's been either feast or famine with the rain.

"April was just a beautiful month. But then all of those consecutive days of rain really put a damper on things, because people couldn't get out to plant," Clark said. "Now that it's drier, people have been working their plots more, and business is much better for us."

The temperature hit 91 about 2 p.m. yesterday -- higher than the average 78 degrees for the date but short of the record of 97. The temperature is expected to reach the 90s again today, with a chance of a thunderstorm tonight and then cooler weather for the week.

The 13 consecutive days of rain tied a record set in 1894. Yards and ball fields became so saturated that water stood everywhere.

Lawrence Leaf Jr., owner of Leaf Nursery in Northeast Baltimore, said much of his flower stock bloomed late because of the relentless wet weather.

"Flowers that needed a lot of sun got affected," he said. "Rosebushes, geranium, zinnias, petunias they want some sunshine."

Leaf's sales on Mother's Day were down a third from previous years, and he said colleagues in the business lost 50 percent of expected sales because of the wet conditions.

"Now," he said, "it's gone from that to no rain at all. We've compensated for the dryness by watering, but I have seen people with yards who have had problems."

The Baltimore area recorded 3.46 inches of rain in May, compared with the average for this month of 3.72 inches. The record for May rainfall is 8.71 inches, set in 1989. The record low is 0.37 inches, in 1981.

This year, 24 inches of rain have fallen in the region -- compared with an average of 16 inches through May.

Pub Date: 5/31/98

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