Though not normally known as a rainy month, October brought some much-needed precipitation to the basin. Hartwell and Russell registered 7.7 and 5.7 inches compared to their 4.1- and 3.2-inch averages, respectively.
These numbers ranked in the top 10 for October observed rainfall going all the way back to 1948. Thurmond received 4 inches, which was nearly an inch above its average.
Coming off of a fantastic month of rainfall, we often get a deluge of questions like the one tweeted by @Hutt1 yesterday:@Hutt1 is correct – Hartwell is still 7 feet below guide curve but the cause, as we often point out, rests with below-average runoff. Despite the great rainfall at Hartwell, runoff is still below average – an increase to 80 percent of normal. Thurmond runoff remains at 50 percent of normal.
The rainfall we received last month was in the top 10 for the most those sub-basins have received in October, but the cumulative amount we received for entire year in 2016, which plunged the basin into the drought, was one of the worst in the past 70 years.
In a sense, we’re comparing excellent rainfall in one month with a year of significant deficits.
Rainfall has improved in 2017. Thus far we’ve had six months with above average rain at each of the sub-basins, but the cumulative amount is still only about 4-5 inches more than average. (Compare this to the fact that in 2016 Hartwell experienced a 23-inch deficit on its 59-inch average.)
To overcome the extreme level of a rain deficit 2016 created, we’ll need many more October-like months.
And on that front, unfortunately, the outlook is questionable.
NOAA’s recent projection is for a La Niña winter, which gives the Southeast an above average chance for being warmer and drier than average. That’s not to say we won’t recover, it’s just that one of the conditions (ocean temperature) doesn’t favor that outcome.
Rest assured, recovery from the drought is inevitable. For now, it’s just a matter of time.
~Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office