Demystifying DL1

Not normally known as wet month for the Savannah River Basin, November did its best to solidify its reputation as an underachiever.

All three sub-basins fell short of their averages, with Hartwell registering 3.2 inches, nearly an inch and a half below its average. Thurmond and Russell collected 2.6 and 2.9 inches, respectively, just more than half an inch below their averages.

Misery usually loves company, but last month the Savannah River Basin said, “Leave me be.”

While most of the Southeast is on track to recover from the drought, we’re struggling to pull up the rear.

In November’s Water Resources Outlook, Todd Hamill, Service Coordination Hydrologist for the National Weather Service’s Southeast River Forecast Center, summarized our predicament:

“Our outlook for the winter timeframe for our rivers shows most of the Southeast getting back to normal with the Savannah River Basin being the only one we still have some concerns about. Part of that comes from the series of reservoirs needing some good rain to recover from our most recent drought.”

“Otherwise,” he continued, “stream flow over much of the Southeast has returned to normal and normal rainfall should bring us out of the drought.”

Not content with the National Weather Service’s expert, science-backed forecast, I sought a second opinion via our local expert and water manager, Kat Feingold – and more specifically – her Magic 8 Ball.

“Will the basin be back above Drought Level I (and into normal operations) before the new year?” I asked.

“Outcome not likely,” she said, in her best 8 Ball voice.

(Note: When we asked the Magic 8 Ball on her desk the same question, its reply was: “Definitely not.”)

Feingold provided more background for Hamill’s synopsis of the Savannah River Basin this winter.

“The issue is that no substantial moisture is getting pulled up (from the Atlantic Ocean) and deposited over the entire basin,” she said.

Further, as the storms have rolled in from the West, the precipitation has been falling mostly in the upper basin. Feingold said for the basin to rebound from Drought Level I, ideally we’d need either one really big rain event or a consistent 1-2 inches over an extended period.

Now that we’re experiencing cooler temperatures, with relatively lower levels of evaporation and transpiration, the basin is primed to collect runoff – if we could just get the rain.

So, faced with two to three sets of corroborating bad news, I sought optimistic support from Twitter’s version of the Magic 8 Ball (@8BallTweets).

His reply: “Concentrate and ask again.”

I think he’s saying there’s a chance.

~ Jeremy S. Buddemeier, Corporate Communications Office

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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