Irma expected to improve drought conditions in upper basin

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District said today that the Hartwell, Russell, and Thurmond Reservoirs are equipped and able to safely capture forecasted rainfall from Hurricane Irma.

The current NOAA forecast predicts between 5 to 7 inches of rainfall from the storm throughout the upper basin. Currently Hartwell and Thurmond Reservoirs have more than 12 feet of storage capacity available for rising water levels. Based on the rainfall forecast water managers estimate Hartwell will rise about 3.5 feet and Thurmond 6 feet, bringing the reservoirs welcome relief from drought.

Although high volumes of rainfall are forecasted, there is no cause for concern over the structural integrity of the dams. The dams and reservoirs were designed and equipped to handle this kind of event and are well within their operating parameters.  They are in sound operating condition.

However, officials advise caution for those who might be near the Savannah River below Thurmond Dam for the next several days. Although the Corps’ dams can capture inflow upstream of the structures, rainfall below Thurmond flows into unregulated tributaries resulting in dangerous conditions on the Savannah River downstream of the dam through Augusta, Georgia, and beyond the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam.

Water managers said they intend to reduce or halt Thurmond discharge downstream if the river below Thurmond Dam is forecasted to climb above its channel capacity, at 30,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The River below Thurmond is currently flowing at approximately 4,200 cfs. Although halting discharge from Thurmond will mitigate river swelling below the dam, localized inflows are still expected to result in dangerous conditions downstream of Thurmond.

“Safety remains our Number 1 priority throughout this storm event,” said Col. Marvin Griffin, Savannah District Commander. “Just like with any intense rainfall event, conditions are expected to result in circumstances that require caution for those in the surrounding areas, especially below Thurmond Dam where local inflows are unregulated.”

Excessive rainfall downstream of Thurmond Dam may result in hazardous conditions due to increased river flows on the Savannah River, including areas near Augusta, Georgia. Hazards from high river flows include floating debris, submerged retaining walls and higher river velocity downstream of Thurmond Dam. High water is also a possibility in the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam Park and at Fury’s Ferry.

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Recovering from the Great American Eclipse

After all the hubbub, hoopla and hype surrounding last week’s cosmic spectacle, I think I’ve developed a case of post-eclipse ennui.

And it’s not because I don’t have anything to occupy my time – if anything I have more work as a result of all the driving and time spent away from home – but overall, the eclipse took a toll on me.

My co-worker Billy Birdwell and I started planning for the event in the spring and got exponentially more excited as Aug. 21 approached. Hartwell Dam, which is managed by Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, fell within the path of totality and seemed like the perfect venue.

Despite all our planning, the eclipse still caught me off-guard.

Everything I had read and watched focused on the precious period of totality; or about how quickly the umbra recedes; or the eclipse photographer’s delight: Bailey’s beads and the “diamond ring” effect as the sun penetrates the peaks and valley on the moon’s profile.

Honestly, I wasn’t overwhelmed emotionally and didn’t have any epiphanies during the 1 minute, 52 seconds of totality, however, that 10-15 minute period leading up to it still sits with me. If you were in the path of totality (and had clear skies), maybe it struck you, too.

Everything was saturated with this muted hue and almost had a grainy dream-like quality to it. It was as if the sunlight was buzzing – definitely still bright outside, but not bright enough to need your sunglasses.

Wildlife in the area noticed, too. I didn’t remember hearing cicadas during the event, but the audio I captured on my camera was full of their songs — or perhaps they were crickets?

I never felt the temperature drop but did see “snakes” on the pavement – these wavy bands of shadows that scientists are still trying to understand.

The second half of the eclipse, as the moon made its way across the rest of the sun, was largely uneventful and occluded by clouds. No more anticipation, and really, not much more to see.

Visitors at the Big Oaks Recreation Area just across the water from us piled back into their cars and headed home. We packed up intermittently and waited for the show to end.

In her essay “Total Eclipse,” author Annie Dillard wrote about her experience with one in Washington state in 1979:

“The sun was going, and the world was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were now platinum. … I was standing in a movie of hillside grasses filmed in the Middle Ages. I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day.”

I can imagine how these cosmic events must have stirred people a thousand years ago when they seemed to occur out of the blue. Even with months of preparation I still wasn’t ready for it.

If you missed this eclipse, there’s still time to plan for the next one, which will cast a moving shadow from Texas to Maine, April 8, 2024. Birdwell is already making plans and I am, too.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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Solidifying the legacy of the CSS Georgia

Archaeologists and crews finished CSS Georgia recovery operations Aug. 2. USACE photo by Billy Birdwell.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – After more than a quarter century of diving and painstaking research, archaeologists who worked to recover the CSS Georgia wrapped up their operations, Aug. 2, with a public presentation at the Coastal Georgia Center in downtown Savannah, Georgia. Continue reading

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The ironclad’s last breath

An aerial view of the CSS Georgia’s west casemate, July 2. The 31 x 24 foot segment weighed 67 tons. (Photo by Anne Weathersby.)

SAVANNAH, Ga. – I stood aboard the CSS Georgia recently and it was surreal.

The hulking, 67-ton section of the west casemate – still dripping with seawater – reeked of rotting mussels and more than a century of sunken detritus.

A mammoth container ship shimmied by so close I could have thrown a baseball to a deckhand. Continue reading

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Providing comments now easier: reader engagement no longer limited to Facebook

Readers may have noticed a change in our comment section. On Friday we returned to our original comment plug-in for posts. This is good news because now anyone can provide remarks – no social media account needed! Readers may comment as guest, or use a medium of their choice. Continue reading

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Wetland acquisition advances SHEP progress

The Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) continues to make progress, most recently demonstrated by the completion of another environmental mitigation requirement. Continue reading

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More rainfall, but where is it all going?

Things are starting to look up for the Savannah River Basin as each of the sub-basins received above average rainfall for the third straight month. Continue reading

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As the summer heats up, exercise caution

SAVANNAH, Ga. – More public recreation fatalities occur in July than any other month, so we’re asking you to play it safe while on, in or near the water. Continue reading

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Next stop: Lake Hartwell, June 26

SAVANNAH, Ga. – We’re hitting the road next week, heading to Lake Hartwell for a workshop on water management and water levels. The three-hour event will be held at the North Georgia Technical College, Currahee campus, in Toccoa, Georgia. Doors open at 6 p.m. Continue reading

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Play it safe around water this summer

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Before you head out for a day on or near the water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Savannah District encourages you to ensure you have life jackets for everyone and that you wear them.

Last year Savannah District recorded seven fatalities on the lakes it manages, including Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond. Five of the seven fatalities occurred in undesignated swimming areas. Continue reading

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