life in cape may

Where's the Rain?

Posted 7/30/07
by Paul Kerlinger
Outdoors Editor

Cape May, NJ - We had gone for weeks without a heavy rain in Cape May and I was looking at the weather radar online yesterday.

As usual, a good storm system seemed to be headed in our direction. It extended from the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland all the way to Allentown, Pennsylvania. Surely, this time, Cape May would get some sorely needed rain.

An hour passed and the "storm" crossed Delaware Bay and hit Cape May. We got thunder and lighting and darkened skies, but just .04 of an inch of rain - not even enough rain to wet the grass, let alone quench my thirsty garden.

Meanwhile, just a few miles north, a friend reported more than 2 inches of water in his rain gauge.

Drought conditions

What happened to yesterday's fizzled out rain is an all too familiar scenario on Cape Island. The lower end of Cape May County is now in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Typically, each summer, Cape May languishes in drought, while Central Jersey, Philadelphia, and Delaware get both their share of rain and ours.

Stopped by the Bay

That's because most rain storms approach Cape May from the west. The rain has to pass over the Delaware Bay first. And that's often where the storms end.

It's a well-known fact that warm water helps hurricanes pick up energy and moisture. It's also known that hurricanes and storms fizzle out as they move over cooler water.

It seems that the cooler waters of Delaware Bay suck the energy out of thunderstorms and heavy rain systems before they get to us.

Later in the summer, as the Bay warms up, more thunderstorms start to reach South Jersey and Cape May.

Late Season Storms

We also get more rain in the fall, winter and spring when nor 'easters coming in from the Atlantic Ocean work their way up the coast. These storms can drop several inches of rain in Cape May in a single day.

But early to mid summer - forget about it.

When I first arrived in Cape May about 20 years ago, someone told me that "It never rains in Cape May in the summer." I thought it was a tourism gimmick.

Now I know better.

Perhaps that's why Cape May's beaches have become such a popular summer destination.

Endless sunshine.

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