By CHRIS HARRIS, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
People come to Pulaski County on summer holidays to get wet. It’s just that usually they’d prefer the water to be in a lake or pool, rather than coming from the sky.
Unfortunately for those who sought outdoor fun over the Independence Day extended weekend, things didn’t go quite according to plan. The rain was constant and, at times, torrential.
In all, Pulaski County saw approximately 4.49 inches of rain, according to Shawn Harley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Jackson, Ky.
“What was unusual was that the pattern was so persistent,” said Harley. “We had day after day of rain.
“Sometimes we get that amount of rain, but it comes all at once in a localized area,” he added, “but what was unusual was that it was widespread and persistent, and several days of wet weather.”
Indeed, rainclouds soaked communities throughout the Bluegrass state and up into southern Ohio. All while folks were hoping to set off fireworks for the Fourth of July — though judging by the steady stream of loud booms reverberating throughout the hollers of Pulaski over the week, few were stymied by the less-than-friendly weather.
Like something out of the Book of Genesis, the rains came and washed over the earth for six days — but rested on the seventh.
“Somerset had six days in a row with measurable rain,” said Harley. He noted that during the 24-hour period lasting from early Sunday to Monday morning, there were “trace amounts” of precipitation — “so if you count that, it’s seven days.”
He added, “The observation taken July 1 was 0 (amount of rainfall), but every observation since that was taken, rainfall was observed.”
Fortunately, the substantial amount of rain didn’t mean flooding, at least for this area. “Because it was spread out over so many days, we didn’t have as much flooding as there would have been in a day or two (of heavy rain). There was a lot more (flooding) in central Kentucky, but not really any in Somerset or the southern area.”
With all the angst over the levels of Lake Cumberland in recent years — and excitement over it being raised back up to near the normal pool this summer — it appears nature decided to help along the cause. Harley reported U.S. Corps of Engineers information stating that the lake had been raised about seven feet since last week due to the rain.
Currently, the lake level sits at about 712 feet, he said.
John Williams, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist, said he didn’t expect the slightly larger lake to have much of an environmental impact.
“It could affect water quality later in the year and has in the past,” he said. “The rain (can) flush out the cold water and replace it with warm. You run into oxygen problems in deep water. If you get a big rain in late spring and have to release a bunch of water off the bottom and middle and not the top, you replace the cold water with warm water and it affects the stripers and walleye.”
However, “we’re in pretty good shape as far as cold water and good oxygen (for the fish).”
While the stripes and walleye are getting along swimmingly, the humans found themselves feeling a bit like fish this holiday weekend. Saturday’s SomerBlast event at the SomerSplash water park — an all-day Independence Day celebration with games, live music, and of course fireworks — found itself right in the middle of an all-day weather event. What should have been a banner weekend for tourism unfortunately didn’t quite match expectations.
“It was wet,” said Carolyn Mounce, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“I did some spot-checking (Monday),” she said. “Some of the lodging facilities we’d called earlier in the week were very optimistic (about the holiday). Then each one I’d (check back) with had some cancellations.
“Saturday was not a bad night, but July 4 and 5 were, as one (hotel) put it, not very impressive,” she added. “Clearly, the rain put a damper on what people’s plans were for the Fourth of July.”
Likewise, local marinas expected brisk business, with heavy lodging bookings and small boat and pontoon rentals. Yet “one of the marinas just said you could tell it was raining,” said Mounce. “It was slow.”
Every rainy cloud has a silver lining. Mounce said the rain forced people indoors, which allowed tourists to see parts of Pulaski County they might not have otherwise.
“When something like this happens, the lake sort of takes care of itself,” sad Mounce. “(The rain) gets people off of the lake and into things like the Carnegie Community Arts Center or the Peddler’s Mall, or local restaurants to eat. It gives place like that an opportunity to get (tourists) out and about and see what else we have to offer.”
And also, patience is a virtue — and rewarded by nature. “For those that decided to stay Saturday night, they had to be ecstatic about Sunday,” said Mounce. “Sunday was beautiful.”