I’ll admit it: By last week I had written off the Savannah River Basin as being subpar for another month. Who needs rainfall anyway?
However, pre-Halloween storms blew through like a wolf on our three little pigs and pushed each over its monthly average. In just the last three days of the month Hartwell received about 3 inches of rain, while Thurmond and Russell each collected 1.3 inches.
It’s like the sub-basins were playing with our emotions.
That last-ditch effort propelled Hartwell to 5.7 inches (compared to its 4-inch average), Russell to 4.1 inches (versus its 3.2-inch average) and Thurmond to 3.8 (versus its 3-inch average).
Though this wasn’t exceptional, any rainfall is good rainfall when it follows the uninspired performance that was September.
(Note: Hartwell received more rainfall in 48 hours than the entire basin received for the month of September. Let that sink in.)
Actually, “sinking in” is exactly what our Drought Level 1 basin could use right now.
As stakeholders who have lived in the area for a bit may recall, it’s not just the amount of precipitation that matters, it’s the timing as well. Lots of rain in short periods of time pay biggest runoff dividends.
It’s sort of like in bowling, where a strike or spare can become even more valuable when it’s followed by another.
Likewise, this recent bevy of rainfall could translate to a bigger bump in reservoir levels if it’s followed by additional rainfall while the ground is saturated (and especially now, when transpiration and evaporation rates are descending).
The current seven-day forecast calls for about a half an inch of rain (or less), which isn’t very significant.
Stan Simpson, Savannah District water manager, said last week’s rain was enough to make the pools jump, but we’ll still need more to return to normal operations. (To come out of DL1, both Thurmond and Hartwell would have to climb 2 feet above the DL1 trigger.)
“It shows you just how dry it was,” Simpson said.
Although hurricane season is winding down (it ends Nov. 30), we’re also dealing with the downside.
As Todd Hamill, NOAA senior coordination hydrologist, said in the September Water Resources Outlook, when those tropical storms stay away from our region, we remain dry.
Looking ahead, the question now is will last week be the kick-start the basin needed or just an anomaly in our dry spell?
It could go either way, but I wouldn’t write off the recovery just yet.
~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office