Karen expected to bring rain to area

Posted: October 5, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — While Gulf Coast residents may hope Tropical Storm Karen heads elsewhere, farmers in the northern Shenandoah Valley would like to issue her an engraved invitation.

“An inch of rain would be a welcome relief,” Bobby Clark, an Agricultural Extension agent for the region, said on Friday.

Through August, the Winchester area had logged a little more than 26 inches of rain this year, almost 1.5 inches above the average, according to weather.com.

During September, however, less than an inch fell — compared to an average of 3.35 inches.

“When it stopped, it definitely shut down,” said Bill Mackintosh of Mackintosh Fruit Farm in Clarke County.

An additional three to four inches of rain last month would have meant bigger apples and a better grade, which would equate to a better price for the crop, he said. “Everything is just drying up.”

At his farm, Mackintosh said, he is already irrigating the strawberry plants he has put out for next year and some of his late-bearing apple trees, too.

Clark said fall pasture land has suffered the most from the dry spell. “It may hurt some cover crops and some small grain.”

The lack of rain has a good side, Mackintosh said. “We’re pretty thankful” because the good weather has made it easier to bring in the apple crop.

Clarke agreed. “Harvesting for grains and soybeans is just getting underway.”

Calvin Meadows, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Sterling, said the odds look good for the area to receive some rain, probably on Monday.

“I’m sure the Shenandoah Valley will get its share,” he said.

However, he will not predict the amount.

The NWS Global Forecasting System model sees a cold front approaching the Valley from the west on Sunday, and it is expected to stall over the area on Sunday night.

At the same time, what should be the remnants of Karen, probably downgraded to a low-pressure system, will track north through east-central Georgia by early Monday.

“It’s weakening by the time it gets up here,” Meadows said, but the system should still carry “a load of tropical moisture. Most areas will see rain.”

The NWS was predicting on Friday afternoon that Karen would make landfall on Saturday evening on the Gulf Coast between Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., and move northeast, Meadows said.

Mackintosh said the welcome mat is out. “Even people who are picking will be happy to take a couple of days off to get some moisture in the ground.”

For fall-planted crops, Clark said, rainfall on Monday would “get everything off to a good start.”

— Contact Val Van Meterat vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com