June ushers in rain after driest May on record

Rainfall on Monday and Tuesday came as a welcome change of pace for local crops. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)
Rainfall on Monday and Tuesday came as a welcome change of pace for local crops. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

It might seem like a distant memory now, but last month proved to be the driest May on record, according to the National Weather Service, making the steady rainfall of June 1 and June 2 a relief to some farmers in the area.

The meteorological agency reported that a scant 0.42 inches fell throughout the month, as measured in Islip — the official NWS station on Long Island.

That’s the least rainfall ever recorded in May since records started being kept in 1984.

According to Faye Berthold, meteorologist with the NWS, last month also came in well below the 3.36 inch average in May.

The last five Mays, according to Ms. Berthold, have seen the following amounts of rainfall at the official NWS monitoring station:

  • 2014: 2.66
  • 2013: 3.05
  • 2012: 4.22
  • 2011: 3.81
  • 2010: 2.85

More locally, unofficial stations — where the data is considered reliable, but not archived, as is Islip — reported similar rainfall. In Upton, a half inch of rain fell last month, and at Cornell Cooperative Extension on Sound Avenue, 0.40 inches fell.

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Local farmers have seen a mixed month themselves as a result of the lack of rainfall.

For produce farmer Jeff Rottkamp of Baiting Hollow’s Fox Hollow Farm, since it’s early in the growing season and the nights (and days) have often been cool, he’s only had to irrigate about once a week.

“We didn’t have the 90 to 95 degree days, and the stuff is young, so things are looking OK,” he said.

But crops like lettuce and spinach need more water than others, Phil Schmitt said.

“Obviously we’re irrigating a lot for May,” he said.

Ornamental plants being sold now needed about twice as much water last month as they typically do, according to Shade Trees Nursery manager Danielle Raby.

“We generally have two people hand-watering by day, in addition to running the irrigation at night,” she said.

That’s in comparison to typically having one employee hand water during the day — an employee who would otherwise be pruning, fertilizing, and spacing out trees.

“So now, we’ve been working harder, longer hours,” she added.

While prices haven’t been affected by the rain — as farmers say, the market dictates the price — profits have. As irrigation and personnel costs have increased, profits have decreased.

On the bright side, the first and second days of June have already brought rain. So maybe this month will be another story.

“You just gotta take what comes your way and go with it,” said Mr. Rottkamp. “Every year is different.”

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