After toiling diligently for the past two plus years, it seems the Savannah River Basin has finally freed itself from the drought that began in 2016.
For seven months in 2018 the sub-basins exceeded their rainfall averages (eight for Russell), while November’s and December’s totals provided the coup de grâce or punctuation mark for “The drought is dead!”
(Indeed, December’s totals were so far above the average that when placed on a bar graph they look like an exclamation point.)
The excitement began to morph into concern in late December, as the reservoirs began to fill, runoff increased, and maintenance on Thurmond’s gates required us to maintain levels slightly below full pool.
According to Scott Hyatt, operations project manager at J. Strom Thurmond, work has been going smoothly and the crew is proceeding as quickly as possible. Workers are finishing gate 17 (of 23) and averaging about two weeks per gate. At that rate, the maintenance should be completed by April.
The heavy rainfall also forced us to delay the fixed weir pool simulation for the recommended fixed crest weir at the New Savannah Bluff Lock & Dam, originally scheduled for Jan. 5. Reservoir levels and inflows are still too high for the simulation, but we may still have an opportunity to conduct the simulation in February if rainfall cooperates.
Looking back, though, 2018 ranked third highest all-time for total annual rainfall for the Russell and Thurmond sub-basins (58.61 and 58.15 inches) and eighth for Hartwell (71.99 inches). Russell and Thurmond were within 5 inches of their annual rainfall records (63.53 inches (2015) and 64.32 inches (1964), respectively).
As previously mentioned, December was a banner month for the basin. Hartwell registered a hair below 12 inches (compared to its 5.25-inch average) while Russell and Thurmond picked up 9.9 and 9.3 inches (versus 4.2- and 4.1-inch averages), respectively.
The beginning of the year hasn’t approached the gangbusters level of the previous two months, but we’re still on par to reach or exceed January’s average for each of the sub-basins. Each has collected in the vicinity of 3 inches and anywhere from 66-74 percent of its average.
In the past 10 years, more often than not the sub-basins have fallen below average in January. However, the first three months of the year are also the wettest, and in non-drought years really set the stage for the summer full pool.
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~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office