Forecasters say a spate of rainstorms, lasting as long as Wednesday in some places, will help break a recent dry spell that has complicated farming in the Portland area.

Mike Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said the rain storms will help lessen the effects of the drought, but probably won’t be substantial enough to end it.

“All that rain could make a dent,” Cempa said Sunday evening.

Thunderstorms rolled through much of the state on Sunday dropping up to three inches of rainfall in places such as Hiram, Baldwin, Shapleigh and Acton. But Portland got a mere .21 inches. Cempa said the storms were very localized and not widespread.

That pattern will likely continue through Wednesday, he said.

The weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for Bridgton, Casco and Naples in western Maine until 4:15 p.m. Sunday. Cempa said the weather service received reports of trees down in Denmark and Shapleigh. Libby Road in the border town of Newfield washed out after a thunderstorm struck.

The Portland area was expected to to see showers and thunder Sunday night, continuing through Monday and Tuesday. The storms may continue into Wednesday morning.

“A few of the thunderstorms could be strong to severe, with hail, gusty winds, and torrential downpours with localized flooding the main threats,” the National Weather Service said.

For farmers, the forecast will provide some relief from a record dry spell from mid-May through June, unmatched since 1871, the weather service said. Last week, most of Maine was classified as “abnormally dry,” the level just below “drought.”

As of June 21, there had been less than a half-inch of rain since mid-May, when the normal level of precipitation was about 4 1/4 inches. That kind of dry spell radiates through farmers’ businesses – if plants can’t grow as normal, there’s less feed for farm animals.

The dry times have benefitted one area population, however – browntail moth caterpillars. In recent years, the pests have moved into parts of Waldo, Somerset, and Kennebec counties, defoliating trees and irritating the skin of people who come into contact with them.

The caterpillars are vulnerable to a kind of algae, Entomophaga Aulicae, that attacks their pupa but thrives in wet weather. Arborists hired by the state to prune browntail moth webs have already noticed growth in the pest infestation.

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