Soggy month makes splash in wet weather record book

Soggy month makes splash in wet weather record book

March 29th, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

An unidentified pedestrian walks past flowering trees and at the rain-soaked Coolidge Park early Monday afternoon. Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

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The months in 2011 have tended to follow weather themes.

First there was snowy January, with more than 10 inches falling on the area. Then came balmy February, with temperatures climbing into the 70s.

More than 11 inches of rain have fallen on Chattanooga this month as wet weather systems moved into the region, according to the National Weather Service at Morristown, Tenn.

The rainfall will push this March into the top 10 roster of rainiest Marches in city history. The area's average amount of rainfall for March is 5 inches.

"Before all of this rain, it had been a pretty dry year," said David Hotz, meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Morristown. "But there's no doubt with all the rain we've made it out of drought conditions for a while."

The last time Chattanooga crossed the 11-inch mark was in 1994, with 11.02 inches. The heaviest rainfall Chattanooga's ever received in a month was in March 1980, when 16.32 inches fell, the National Weather Service reported.

Forecasters say continued rain through the week will bring the month's total to almost a foot. According to the forecast from WRCB-TV Channel 3, storms are likely on Wednesday, and scattered showers will move through the region Thursday and Friday.

"If we continue to get heavy rainfall, we could worry about more flooding," Hotz said.

The only areas that have been issued flood warnings this week are Coahulla Creek near Dalton, Ga., which rose above 16 feet Monday, and Paint Rock River in Jackson County, Ala., which reached 19 feet and flooded roads Monday.

Though the storms have caused headaches with downed trees and slippery roads, they've also provided a welcome break from the sniffles and sneezing of allergy sufferers.

Curt Chaffin, an allergist with the Asthma & Allergy Clinic in Chattanooga, said the rain has cleared the air of pollen, but he emphasized that pollen's reign is not over yet.

"People get some significant relief during this time, but it's going to be short-lived," said Chaffin. "We've still got some trees that are pumping out pollen."

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@times freepress.com or 423-757-6673.