Now that heavy rain and snow have arrived, last year's dry summer is a distant memory. In fact, the Island ended up with more rainfall than usual in 2002.
Despite summer drought conditions that didn't break until September, the National Weather Service cooperative station in Edgartown recorded 46.68 inches of precipitation for the year - 0.86 inches above average. December was a wet month, with total melted precipitation of 5.28 inches, and November saw 7.6 inches.
Some of the snow that fell elsewhere in the state arrived on-Island in the form of rain. But even so, three separate December events brought a total of eight inches of snow to the Vineyard. In one instance, by the morning of Dec. 6 five inches of snow had fallen at the Edgartown weather station, with greater accumulations reported elsewhere.
Total snowfall for the year was 13.90 inches.
Looking back at 2002, John Varkonda said yesterday that last summer was one of the driest in his 15 years of working in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest.
"One thing you can say about the weather, it is always throwing something at you," said Mr. Varkonda, the forest superintendent. "Every year is different and it is fun to watch."
Rainfall, of course, plays a big part in Island life. Since the Vineyard gets its drinking water from rainfall, the rise and fall of the underground water table matters.
William Wilcox, water resource planner for the Martha's Vineyard Commission, keeps tabs on a number of water wells across the Island. Last year, he saw record lows at a well in the state forest from July through November. But after dropping month after month, he said, that well finally began rising in October - the product of rain in the fall.
Overall, Mr. Wilcox said, water levels at the state forest well have been below normal much of the time since 1999. "The year 2002 was dramatically below the normal level in the spring, [which] led to record lows for July through November."
But, Mr. Wilcox said, "It's not all doom and gloom. I go back to 1997 and 1998 and we had record highs in the spring."
Rainfall for the next three or four months will tell whether the Island has really come out of the low period, Mr. Wilcox said: "If we get an average spring rainfall, we will be back to normal by May or June.
Frank Dunkl, president of Chilmark Spring Water Company, also keeps rainfall data, using a rain gauge at his house off Old Farm Road in Chilmark. He recorded 41.9 inches of total rainfall for 2002.
Looking at his records for the early part of the year, Mr. Dunkl said March was the only month that was above average.
"For the last three years, we have been way below average in rainfall," Mr. Dunkl said. "In November and December we did really well, and it looks like we will get adequate rainfall for a while."
After a Dec. 18 meeting of the Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force, a drought advisory was lifted for much of the state, with the notable exception of the Cape and Islands.
The state panel's decision to end the alert elsewhere was based on rainfall amounts from September to November that were 123 per cent of normal. But although fall and winter are the primary seasons for ground water recharge, the ground water level remains below normal locally.
The summer past wasn't just dry - it was unusually warm, with the temperature rising to 90 degrees or more on eight occasions. The hottest day came July 30, when the mercury hit 95 degrees. In weather data going back to 1946, the highest-ever recorded temperature on the Vineyard was 99 degrees, in August 1948.
Last year's low temperature was 14 degrees, recorded on Feb. 12. Other frigid temperatures were 17 degrees on Feb. 14 - Valentine's Day - and 18 degrees on March 1.
New England weather is variable and Vineyard weather even moreso, although the ocean tends to have a moderating effect on both high and low temperatures elsewhere along the Eastern seaboard.
Yesterday, the Island was in the midst of a typical northeaster, with astronomical high tides and strong winds that caused the Steamship Authority to cancel some boats. A tugboat was used to help other boats to the ferry dock in Vineyard Haven.