Robert Miller: A wetter-than-normal July

A car splashes through water on Main Street in Danbury. Part of the street was blocked off because of water from Tropical Storm Elsa.

A car splashes through water on Main Street in Danbury. Part of the street was blocked off because of water from Tropical Storm Elsa.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

In June, a huge whirl of high pressure set up shop in the Atlantic Ocean, creating a nonstop whoosh of humidity to ride into Connecticut and oppress our northern souls. It’s been like living in Tampa — thunderstorms every day — without the gators.

Throw in Tropical Storm Elsa, and it’s been wetter than wet.

“It’s been a lot of rain,” said Gary Lessor, chief meteorologist at the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

Lessor said since July 1, the center has measured more than 4 inches of rain. Because the entire month of July normally gets 4 inches, any more will just overtop the reservoirs and fatten the rivers.

Lessor also said that from July 1 to July 13, it rained 11 of those days.

“It’s pretty good,” he said of all the precipitation.

And if anything, that’s dry compared to other parts of the state.

Matt Spies, of Brookfield, state director of the CoCoRaHS — the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Sleet Network — said his volunteers measured 4 inches in New Milford, 6 inches in Danbury, 9 inches in Darien, and between 7 and 8 inches in stations throughout Litchfield County for the first two weeks of July.

“New Milford was the lowest,” he said

For many people, the wetness luckily meant the hum of air conditioners, dehumidifiers and sump pumps, not generators.

Because Connecticut was the wet, eastern side of Elsa, we got rain. In 2020, when the state was on the windy, western side of Tropical Storm Isaias, hundreds of thousands of utility customers lost power here for several days.

But all the rain does pose problems for plants and the people that grow them. Lots of rain means the release of disease-causing fungal spores.

Mike Halas, of Halas Farm in Danbury, said that between the rain and the cool cloudy weather that’s accompanied it, his crops aren’t growing as robustly as he’d like.

“We need the sun to make things grow and we need the heat,” Halas said.

Yonghao Li, a plant pathologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, said it will take a week or two before people start calling the station with concerns about their water-soaked kale.

“But I’ve seen Septoria leaf spot on the cucumbers and tomatoes in my garden,” he said of the fungal disease that prolonged wet spells unloose to damage plants.

In tomatoes, Septoria infects the lower leaves of tomato plants with yellow and brown spots, then works its way up to damage the entire plant and diminish the size of the crop.

Nor are vegetable gardens the only places that fungi crop up. Yonghao also said he worries about an outbreak of boxwood blight, which can completely kill boxwood plants.

“The last time we had it was in 2019,” he said.

The cause of all the humidity and thunderstorms is a Bermuda High, a mass of high pressure that parks itself in the Atlantic Ocean and, spinning clockwise, brings humid southern air north.

Bill Jacquemin, senior meteorologist at the Connecticut Weather Center in Danbury said that this year, there’s a corresponding mass of cool air in Canada that’s pushing down into Connecticut. When cold and warm air masses collide, thunderstorms start rumbling.

“It’s a battleground,” he said of the contending air masses.

Jacquemin said that by August, the jet stream will shift north and the clash of Titans will end.

“It might give us sunny, cool weather,” he said.

Spies, of CoCoRaHS, said, following the weather charts of the US Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, he sees a change coming this week.

It’s good to remember that, while some July vacations may have gotten moldy here, forest fires and 100 degree heat are the norm in the western United States.

“That heat is what’s causing our weather here,” Lessor said. “Thank God it’s not that hot here.”

Spies also said this wet July will help make up for dry months in January, March and June.

“We only got 1.5 inches of rain in June,” he said.

And gatherers of morels, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms and hens of the woods are rejoicing. The wetness is firing up a bumper crop of edible fungi.

“There are mushrooms everywhere,” said Terry Stoleson, of Trumbull.

The preceding drought-prone years have made for slim pickings on the woods. Stoleson said, thanks to the rain, things are different now.

“It’s a very mushroom-y year,” she said.

Contact Robert Miller at earthmattersrgm@gmail.com