Rain puts crimp in outdoor work in South Carolina

jholleman@thestate.comJuly 10, 2013 

  • How much more rain? Plenty

    The National Weather Service’s seven-day precipitation forecast ranges from 5 inches in the southern Midlands and the coast to 3 inches in the northern Midlands.

    Chantal was downgraded to a tropical wave Wednesday afternoon. If remnants of Chantal make it this far north, the totals could be higher.

Mike Odom and his carpentry crew were hustling Wednesday to finish “drying in” a new house in Woodcreek Farms so they could finally work through the ubiquitous showers of the summer of 2013.

Like so many who work outside, they have struggled to do their job in the rainiest summer in years. Rain has fallen somewhere in the state every day since June 1.

“We’ve got plenty of work but we just can’t get the weather to cooperate,” Odom said.

The abundance of rain is slowing progress for frame carpenters, concrete pourers and painters. It’s also ruining the summer growing and harvest season for some farmers. And the situation likely will get worse before it gets better.

The National Weather Service’s seven-day precipitation forecast ranges from 5 inches in the southern Midlands and the coast to 3 inches in the northern Midlands. And it could go higher if the remnants of Chantal make it this far north. Chantal’s future is fuzzy, but it’s unlikely to cause any wind or coastal surge problems in South Carolina.

However, the potential for a wet system currently coming across the country meeting up in South Carolina with Chantal moisture “is a messy mix,” said Mark Malsick, severe weather liaison with the State Climate Office.

That’s just what the Midlands doesn’t need. Through Wednesday morning, Columbia Metropolitan Airport had received 8.99 inches of rain since June 1, the 19th wettest June 1-July 9 ever, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center. Other parts of the Midlands have been hit harder by scattered showers.

It’s even wetter to our north and south. Greenville-Spartanburg airport has had an all-time record 19.53 inches since June 1. Charleston airport is at 15.24 inches since June 1, the sixth wettest such period on record.

At Coosaw Farms in Allendale, about 4 inches of rain fell in one day back in February, “and we’ve never had a dry period since then,” said owner Bradley O’Neal, who grows melons. “We can’t get into the fields properly to harvest them, and if we do get out there, we’re bogging down.”

While too much rain hurts many crops, it’s especially problematic for heavy melons that sit on the ground. The overly wet soil reduces the lifespan of the melons, impacting the size and quality. O’Neal expects to harvest 30 percent to 40 percent of his normal haul.

O’Neal would much rather deal with last summer’s record heat than this summer’s near-record rainfall. For outdoor construction crews, it’s more of a debate. The relatively cool temperatures this summer have been welcome, but the smaller paychecks when rain cuts their hours are a pain.

Odom’s MW Construction crew worked half a day last week, when rains often began early in the day. Eddie Yandle, whose Executive Construction crews are working on several homes in Woodcreek Farms, said one of his foundation and framing teams didn’t work at all last week and another got in only six hours.

“These are week-to-week guys,” Yandle said. “They really need paychecks.”

It’ll be more of a cash flow problem than a total pay concern. Mostly dry mornings and early afternoons are allowing the crews to work this week. Still, “they’re going to have to work weekends for the next two months to catch up,” Yandle said.

Odom agreed one way to make up for the lost time is to work weekends. Thankfully, his crew nearly was past the rain-delay stage. They managed to get the plywood roofing down early this week and were working Wednesday on attaching the fabric covering that would “dry in” the large house.

They’ll be able to work on inside walls when the next big rain-making system arrives.

How much more rain? Plenty

The National Weather Service’s seven-day precipitation forecast ranges from 5 inches in the southern Midlands and the coast to 3 inches in the northern Midlands.

Chantal was downgraded to a tropical wave Wednesday afternoon. If remnants of Chantal make it this far north, the totals could be higher.

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