Northeast October Rainfall Sets Records

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With a month of widespread flooding from Maine to Maryland, it should come as no surprise that it was the wettest October on record in 15 cities throughout the Northeast, Cornell University meteorologists reported Monday.

Five of those cities — Allentown, Pa.; Concord, N.H.; Islip, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; and Providence, R.I. — all recorded the wettest month ever, said Kathryn Vreeland (search), a meteorologist at Cornell's Northeast Regional Climate Center (search).

Portland, Maine, had 14.37 inches, but that fell short of the record 16.86 inches in October 1996. Still, it was the city's second-wettest October and third-wettest month ever.

The hurricanes that rolled over the Gulf Coast in late September and October weren't necessarily to blame for the wetness.

"Blame the jet stream," said Ross Dickson of the National Weather Service's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"There was a strong blocking mechanism in the North Atlantic that allowed the tropical moisture from the remnants of those storms to flow northward in the upper atmosphere, where it got caught in a pattern of weak troughs and cold fronts," Dickson said. "That was the problem — it just sat there and didn't go anywhere for a while."

The rainiest spot in the Northeast in October was the core of the Big Apple — Central Park (search), where 16.73 inches fell to eclipse a 102-year record of 13.31 inches. More than half that total — 8.5 inches — fell over a three-day period from Oct. 12-14, Vreeland said.

The wettest month on record in Central Park was September 1882, when it was soaked with 16.85 inches of rain.

However, Vreeland noted that weather observers at John F. Kennedy International Airport (search) in New York City recorded 14.97 inches of rain, the most reported for any month at that station, she said.

Hartford, Conn., had the second highest rainfall total in the Northeast in October with 16.32 inches, topping the 11.61 inches that fell in October 1955.

The third wettest spot was Worcester, Mass., which had 15.56 inches of rain. The wettest October previously in Worcester also was in 1955, when the city received 10.98 inches of rain.

Other cities reporting their wettest October were: Bridgeport, Conn.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Atlantic City, N.J.; Albany, N.Y.; and Philadelphia, Pa.

The last time the Northeast experienced such a widespread soaking was in August 1955 when Hurricane Diane lumbered up the East Coast, Vreeland said.

According to NRCC archives, August 1955 is the wettest month on record for seven cities — Worcester, Ma.; Providence, R.I.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Burlington, Vt.; Boston; and Scranton, Pa.