Gentle Reader: Staring at crystal balls can injure your eyesight


When NOAA’s weather forecasts for the basin seem vague, a local writer offers his “gut” predictions. Photo courtesy of

Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, starts her responses to readers’ questions with “Gentle Reader,” then dispenses the correct way polite people interact. I won’t pretend to be so genteel, although I do claim to be a Texas gentleman.

Today’s post will, however, state my “gentle predictions” on the summer conditions at the Savannah District reservoirs.

I based these on some of the long-range forecasts put out by NOAA’s National Weather Service. I also based part of the predictions on that good old standby – my gut feeling.

At this writing all three reservoirs sit at or near full summer pool. All have met or remained very near guide curve for months.

During the winter high water events, Hartwell, Russell and Thurmond lakes greatly exceeded guide curve and even summer guide curve. Getting the reservoir levels back to guide curve and keeping them there required great expertise, experience and constant attention from our water managers and dam operators.

So as we race toward the official start of the summer season, Memorial Day weekend, we expect the reservoirs to remain close, very close, to their current full-pool levels.

This should give a wonderful start to a fun-filled early summer. Rainfall typically declines during the summer, and evaporation and transpiration increase, so conditions on Independence Day and Labor Day may look somewhat different.

NOAA’s long-range rainfall projections call for a 50-50 chance of above normal or below normal rainfall in the Southeast. El Niño may still come through with some extra rain, but the current record-strong El Niño only gave us very abundant rainfall in the winter, then settled down.

Since several of the past years have experienced below normal rainfall in the summer, a summer of at or near normal sounds very nice. Still El Niño could come through again. I don’t count it out just yet.

Based on past experience, especially the recent past, a slight drop in reservoir levels will likely occur in the hot summer. With the currently saturated soil, full reservoirs and no official drought, the summer reservoir levels should give all of us opportunities for swimming, boating, water skiing, fishing, camping, biking, picnicking, and hiking at the Savannah District reservoirs.

But remember, Gentle Readers, always wear a life jacket whenever you are in, on or near the water. Remember our new rhyme: “Life jackets worn – nobody mourns.”

— Billy Birdwell, Corporate Communications Office

About the author: Birdwell trained as a classic newspaper reporter and has never had a course in meteorology, weather, or anything remotely connected to those disciplines. He did, however, grow up on a non-irrigated, west Texas farm, where observing the weather and trying to determine the best time to plant cotton, grain sorghum and black-eyed peas was an essential skill passed from generation to generation.

About U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multimillion 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
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