March and April.
Yellow coats that make you look like the Gorton’s fisherman, a cold splash at the curb from a passing taxi, and umbrellas that either work okay or don’t work at all.
Was the mailman soaked when he delivered this issue of Maryland Life to your door?
It’s the time of year where you don’t have to wish it would rain.
As a Free State poet points out from her perch atop an old house near Pimlico racetrack, March rain is not April rain.
“I've always been a fan of rain,” says Anna Conner, guitarist and lyricist for the Thrushes, a Baltimore-based noise-and-pop combo. “I love buying new trench coats to wear on rainy days. And I love umbrellas! I have a favorite plaid one.
“I was talking with a friend about how we can't wait for spring because it gets rainy and mild,” she continues. “We both love to take naps with the windows open during storms.”
The 29-year-old Conner—by day an elementary school teacher in Dundalk—notes that she is speaking of April.
“March,” she says, “is still so darn cold.”
Frank Roylance has been a highly regarded science writer for the Baltimore Sun for 30 years. His beat takes him beyond the typical daily weather story—long a staple of newspaper coverage, the act of telling people what they already know—into meteorological trends.
Since it is the habit of science to trump poesy, Roylance reports that while March and April get most of folklore’s attention for rain—known in the weather biz as “melted precipitation”—September is the king of the rainy season in Maryland.
(Last September 30, for example, more than six inches of rain fell here in 24 hours, obliterating the previous record of 1.6 inches for the same day in 1920.)
And more surprising, each of the 12 months—give or take a drop—pretty much delivers the same amount of rainfall.
“Pretty steady all year ’round,” says Roylance. “The monthly averages never stray below three inches or as high as four. It’s not like we have a wet season and a dry season.”
I was pleased to see that March is a close second to September for soaking the Mason-Dixon Line, with an average rainfall of 3.93 inches, a mere .05 inches less than the month of Labor Day.
“That’s probably due to tropical systems which peak in September,” says Roylance. “Absent those, I suspect March would stand tall.”
Tall, damp, and in-the-marrow cold.
March mercifully gives way to the cruelest month, which in 30 short and fickle days—remember the Opening Day snowstorm at Camden Yards in 2003?—steps aside for May flowers.
In my time on the city desk at Calvert and Bath streets, it is likely that I wrote some 200 weather stories. Almost none were about rain except when it led to flooding and flooding led to drownings.
Entrenched heat waves always got a lot of attention. “It’s so hot,” a man once told me, “the chickens are standing in line to get plucked.”
Snowstorms made for beautiful photographs until the swirling drifts became dirt and slush, and gale-force thunderstorms wreaked havoc.
But simple rain?
“Rain is inconvenient, gloomy, and expected, none of which summons up great story ideas [and so] doesn’t get much ink,” says Roylance.
“It rains quite a lot, after all, and seldom does more than get us wet.”
Rafael Alvarez can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org