Storms Soak Rim Country

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In case you haven't noticed, it's been a soggy February -- better than three times as wet as normal.

As of 8 a.m. Friday morning, a total of 7.07 inches of precipitation has fallen this month in the back yard of veteran weather observer and recorder Anna Mae Deming.

The 30-year average for February is 1.91 inches, according to Mike Ploughe, town hydrogeologist.

Most of the precipitation fell during two major storms, 2.64 inches Feb. 13-14 and 3.88 inches as of Friday at 8 a.m. from the current storm that began Feb. 25.

Deming, who lives on Main Street, said water is running in the meadow in the American Gulch area.

"I haven't seen that run in quite awhile, so that's a blessing," Deming said. "It's coming all the way down, and I hope those fellows who want to build houses over there take a good look at it."

February 2003, has been more typical of pre-drought weather patterns, according to Deming.

"Typically in about mid-December we start getting some precipitation," she said. "January is pretty much a calm month.

"But February can be our worst winter month. We can get wind and lots of snow and rain. I've just seen lots of it."

Deming noted a chilly temperature of 17 degrees on Feb. 6, fog on Feb. 15 and strong winds on Feb. 21 and 22 as evidence that February 2003 stacks up with the worst -- or best, depending on your perspective. But she challenges those who overplay its significance.

"Somebody on KMOG said this was the wettest February we've ever had. Good land, no," she said.

"We've only had a few days of weather (this month). There have been Februarys where it stormed throughout the month. Somebody hasn't lived here very long."

Ploughe also cautioned that the drought is far from over, especially considering that January, with just 0.28 inches of precipitation, was well below its 30-year average of 2 inches.

"It all comes out in the wash, and we're not out of the woods yet," Ploughe said, "but some groundwater recharge will take place."

Heavy precipitation was reported throughout the state. The storm dumped more than two feet of snow at Sunrise Park Resort near Greer, and more than an inch of rain allowed the Valley to surpass its rainfall total for all of 2002 in just 57 days.

With yet another storm system off the west coast, forecasters are predicting more rain and snow at least through the weekend.

And with March poised to come in like a lion, Deming expressed the hope that it, like February, will take on the characteristics of Marches past.

"We used to have worlds of rain in March," she said, "and the cattlemen all depended on it. We've had a long, long drought, and I wish that this would just break it."

Deming, who holds a civil degree in meteorology, began her career with the U.S. Weather Bureau on June 1, 1948 at Payson's first weather station -- located on top of Indian Hill. When the full-time weather bureau closed, the equipment was relocated to her home.

"Mrs. Deming has taken observations continuously for the past 53 years in all types of weather, including blizzards, heavy rains, droughts, and severe thunderstorms," said Michael Campbell, meteorologist in charge of the NWS's Flagstaff office.

"She is also an official NWS storm spotter, and her reports help define what weather patterns have occurred in the Payson area."

With that tribute, Deming's final words of wisdom carry extra weight: "We have to be glad for every darn drop that comes."

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