Despite days of rain, drought fears persist; Well, ground water below normal levels, meteorologist says


April showers bring all sorts of cliches, but no relief from the drought in Maryland.

After several days of steady rain and drizzle, the state was running just about even with last year's precipitation level, a thimbleful more than 13 inches through yesterday.

"Well and ground water levels are still below normal, they're not even close," said Dewey Walston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. "There's a high likelihood we're going to fall back into another drought."

It rained more than two inches in the metropolitan area between Monday and last night, when the weather system from the Ohio Valley tapered off to a drizzle and moved off the Atlantic Coast.

Today's forecast calls for clouds and drizzle in the morning with a high in the 60s and sun poking through in the afternoon.

A second low pressure system from the Midwest should arrive here by tomorrow, bringing showers and thunderstorms.

Weather for Easter Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny with high temperatures in the upper 60s.

During this week's steady rain, Carroll County's director of public works looked skyward and gave thanks.

"If nature keeps the grass watered, it will help us," said J. Michael Evans.

"Nature is taking care of the lawns and shrubs, and that means less outside water use in South Carroll."

The southern part of Carroll is the driest and most populated part of the county, and has endured three consecutive summers of water shortages and restrictions.

More than 18,000 residents in Eldersburg and Sykesville rely on water drawn from the 45-billion-gallon Liberty Reservoir.

Levels at the reservoir sank significantly last summer and much of the exposed shoreline is still visible.

For farmers such as Hampstead-based Lippy Bros. Inc., which grows grain and vegetables in Carroll and Baltimore counties, a good spring rain is a hedge against the drier months of summer.

"We're all ready to plant corn and we're held up because of the rain, but we're not really behind," said Brad Rill, a Lippy Bros. official.

Farmers in Central Maryland usually start planting corn April 15 and continue through most of May.

Smaller farms often start as late as the first week of May, said Rill, but larger farms -- such as the 4,000-acre Lippy operation -- usually need several more weeks to prepare.

"I don't like to complain about rain because we're always looking for it," said Robert Hutchison, a Talbot County farmer.

"But at this point, it's more than we need and it's holding up field work."

Sun staff writers Anne Haddad and Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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