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Heavy fall rain could cause trouble in spring

A man pushes a car on Independence Avenue in Quincy, after the street was flooded by heavy rain in September.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Parts of New England have received record and near-record levels of rainfall this fall, causing widespread flooding and traffic jams, but the more serious repercussions from one of the wettest falls on record are yet to come, according to climate scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Meteorological fall, which spans the months of September, October, and November, came to a close Friday. It set the stage for a potential slew of rainfall-related problems in the winter and spring, David Boutt, a hydrogeology researcher at UMass Amherst, said in a statement.

Weather observers at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton recorded more rainfall this past meteorological fall than they did during any other fall since the observatory opened in 1885. The fall was the second-wettest ever recorded in Worcester and in Providence, R.I. Boston had only received more rain during a meteorological fall three times before, according to the scientists’ observations.

But all that rain can’t evaporate quickly enough, so it goes underground.


Measurements taken from groundwater observation wells show that water levels around New England were higher at the end of November than they normally would be during spring thaw, and with winter well on its way, much of that water is unlikely to evaporate until the end of spring.

Low temperatures, saturated soil, and little to no surface evaporation are among the factors that are expected to cause problems this spring, as they push the water table to unusually high levels, Boutt said.

Basement flooding and septic system failures will be among the rain-induced problems homeowners could face come springtime, not to mention chronically wet soil, mildew, and surface-level flooding.

“We usually see the water table in the fall at its yearly low,” Boutt said, “but not this year.”

Andres Picon can be reached at andres.picon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andpicon.