The year that wasn’t (for rain)

The chart shows observed (blue) vs. average (red) rainfall for the Hartwell sub-basin, which received 60% or less than its average for 8 months in 2016.

The chart shows observed (blue) versus average (red) rainfall for the Hartwell sub-basin, which received 60% or less than its average rainfall for 8 months in 2016.

2016 was a wild, tumultuous year that started with such promise but fizzled like a wet sparkler on New Year’s Eve.

Month after month as the year wore on we watched nervously as rain deficits grew.

However, much of the resulting effects on the reservoirs were masked until summer when the continued lack of rain, heat and evapotranspiration really exacted their toll.

December fell in line with the rest of the abysmal year: Hartwell and Thurmond each received 2.9 inches (versus their 5.2- and 4.0-inch averages), while Russell gathered a mere 2.3 inches (compared to its 4.2-inch average).

It was the eighth time Hartwell received 60 percent or less than its monthly average. Thurmond and Russell fared better, but not by much – each finished with less than 70 percent of its average rainfall.

We knew it was a bad year for rain, but a quick glance at the record books confirms it – 2016 was the worst single year on record for Russell, which collected a meager 30.5 inches compared to its 47-inch average.

Hartwell, which averages 58.9 inches, received 35.4 inches (its second worst year since 1948). Thurmond also achieved its second lowest total at 31.5 inches (versus a 46.3-inch average).

Thurmond’s worst year was 1954 with 31.1 inches, while Hartwell’s was just a decade ago in 2007 when it received 31.7 inches of rain.

No doubt many residents remember the 2006-07 years, which combined for the driest two-year period since records were kept.

However, 2017 is a new year and the sub-basins are already looking up.

In just the first week of the year Thurmond collected 79 percent of its average for January, while Russell (58 percent) and Hartwell (35 percent) aren’t far behind.

As we mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, it will take regular, high-intensity rainfall events to maintain ground saturation for the reservoirs to make a full recovery.

Hopefully the sub-basins follow Thurmond’s lead – so much so that we’ll forget just how dry 2016 was.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

About US Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multi-million dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on Facebook.com/SavannahCorps
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