by Ryan Reed


A local meteorologist reported a couple nights ago that we are on target for the driest May since 1903, having recorded only .19 inches of rainfall thus far. The month was also considered cool, with average temperatures (especially early in the month) a bit lower than usual.  Even the months leading up to May were a bit unusual, including an almost snow-free winter that left the forest very dry. Aside from a very rainy week in April, March and April were also extremely dry and windy and we experienced a very active wildfire season as a result, with about 8,000 acres burned.

The Crystal Lake Fire necessitated the closure of I-476 in mid-April.

The green-up of vegetation also followed a bizarre track this spring.  Some very warm temperatures in March (into the 80s) pushed leaf-out and premature bloom of serviceberry and redbud.  A few social media comments stated these blooms were about a month ahead of what is typical, and my specimens concurred. The long dry spell seemed to suspend growth of plants in forests, lawns, and gardens. The approximate five-day rain event in April got things back on track, but now we are once again stuck in a long dry spell.  A hard freeze on May 18 completely zapped my tomatoes, much to my dismay. It’s been a while since we had a freeze that late in the spring.

Foresters are reporting that despite the advanced stage of green-up, which typically ends the spring fire season, sporadic blazes are still occurring, so we must remain vigilant.  The ten-day forecast indicates no rain, at least in my neck of the woods in southcentral PA. I’m glad to be relieved of lawn mowing and weeding duties to some extent, and happy for what looks to be nice weather over the holiday. At this point, I’d be happy to take on a bit more mowing with some rain if it means I won’t need to haul more water up to the garden.

Spring weather in Pennsylvania is notoriously fickle, and its unpredictability is about the only thing predictable about it. Our forests are amazingly adaptable to these fluctuations.  I wish I could say the same for my tomatoes.

Eastern Redbuds bloomed early this year.


Forest Fridays are published weekly by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry.