It may seem counterintuitive after a half-year of unusually heavy downpours in southeastern Louisiana, but Baton Rouge is finally seeing a normal month of rainfall.
A National Weather Service gauge at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport recorded 6.7 inches of rain so far this month — a drop in the bucket compared to the four feet measured in the first six months of 2021.
Recent rains may have felt more frequent, NWS meteorologist Gavin Phillips explained, but that’s because July usually marks wettest stretch of the wettest season.
“It’s way above normal for the year,” he said, “but (this) July is nothing special.”
It’s been a soggy first half of 2021 for Baton Rouge.
Only six of the first 21 days of July went without measurable rainfall at the airport, Phillips said. The city will have to clock another 5 inches of rain by the end of the month to break the 1949 record of 11.57 inches. That’s unlikely, however, because weather patterns indicate it’s going to be “a lot drier” over the next couple weeks, Phillips said.
While this July has proved fairly average for the middle of the summer in the wettest state in the U.S., the rain has still disrupted daily life across the East Baton Rouge.
With standing water in abundance, “the phones have been ringing off the hook” at the city-parish’s mosquito abatement office, said Pest Control Inspector III Kenny Ricard, who supervises the department’s daytime crews.
In June, the city-parish’s 311 service-request hotline fielded more calls for mosquito control than in any month since 2016.
Mosquito-killing crews are working 10-hour days during the week and eight hours on Saturday to beat back the bloodsuckers, according to Ricard.
“The worst part is, when we get going, the rain starts coming down and we have to stop,” he said.
Storms have also limited how often Ricard’s crews can fly the plane used to spray mosquito-slaying chemicals.
To make matters worse, several mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been caught in traps in recent weeks, Ricard said. Parish officials have been imploring the public to dump standing water out of pots, tires and other liquid-holding containers to prevent mosquitoes from laying their eggs.
Meanwhile, local landscaping companies say the soggy ground has put a damper on their work schedules.
“Anything involving dirt has been a no-go for the last few weeks,” said Daniel Webre, owner of Webre’s Landscaping in Baton Rouge.
Since dirt covers just about everything in his line of work, that’s meant less business than usual.
Webre’s company plants gardens, lays sod and installs lawn drainage and pathways — all of which become harder to do in wet weather.
“We’re doing it,” he said, “but it’s slower and messier.”
At All Seasons Landscaping and Lawn Care, owner Aaron Ulery said that he and his staff are tackling a backlog of rain-delayed work and have had to push back start dates for new projects.
Construction has run into delays, too.
“You can’t put heavy equipment on the ground until it dries up,” Ulery said.
During his five years in the business, he said, “this is the wettest weather I’ve ever seen.”
The daytime rains have upended construction plans for the East Baton Rouge Parish parks system and forced the recreational sports teams that use its facilities into a flurry of rescheduling.
BREC’s summer softball leagues postponed games and practices due to the rain, agency spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet confirmed in an email.
BREC's golf director, Mike Raby, said the parks system lost about $100,000 in revenue this year from flooding at the Santa Maria course and weather severe enough to scare away golfers.
Downpours throughout the year have slowed the parks system’s 20 ongoing construction projects, said Reed Richard, BREC’s assistant superintendent for planning and engineering.
“Even if it rains for an hour or so for one day, depending on the site, it can leave it in a position where it has to dry out for a while,” he said.
Projects usually have “allowable rain days” built into their timeline based off historical trends. But in a year of historically prolific rainfall, those allowable rain days are quickly getting used up, Richard said.
With above-average annual rainfall totals becoming frequent enough to redefine “average,” the state will soon revise that measure. If projected totals tick up a bit higher, that could change standards for new bridges, canals and other infrastructure, potentially leading to higher bills for taxpayers.
Determining rain estimates will likely take Louisiana two years to complete, U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said, and it may not begin until early 2022.
Staff writer Ellyn Couvillion contributed to this report.