The Norman Transcript

December 29, 2012

Snowfall, rain not the same in inches

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — As the director of water resources for the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, John Harrington is well aware of the value of water and the serious threat continued drought conditions bring to central Oklahoma.

“Snow doesn’t translate to a lot of rain, but it still is better than nothing,” Harrington said in his drought report this week. “Rain is also in the forecast now for next Monday, so we are finally seeing some changes to the rather monotonous and unseasonal warm we had earlier this month.”

While the precipitation has been badly needed, inches of snow, because it is frozen, does not equal the same inches of rain.

“A common ratio people use is 10 to one, so 10 inches of snow equals one inch of rain,” said Ken Gallant, National Weather Service meteorologist. “That’s a good ratio for a good part of the country.”

Harrington reports 2011 and 2012 have been two very dry years.

“Together, the two year span may be on the top five driest on record — the Oklahoma Climatological Survey points to the Hooker Mesonet site which has recorded only 19 inches of rain in the last 24 months.”

Harrington quotes Benjamin Franklin: “No one knows the value of water until the well goes dry.”

The seasonal drought outlook produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows drought in Oklahoma and across the Midwest and central United States as persisting and possibly intensifying though March 31.

While streamflow remains normal at Little River the Canadian River measurements are “much below normal” according to measurements taken by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Water conservation storage as reported by ACOG continues to decrease. Lake Hefner and Lake Overholser are terminal storage for Canton Lake. Lake Draper is terminal storage for McGee Creek and Atoka Lakes. All of those sources have decreased in the last week.

Lake Thunderbird’s pool elevation is 1031.59 feet as of noon on Friday. That is over 7 feet below normal meaning the conservation pool is only 62.65 percent full.

A letter will go out this week from the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District asking its municipal water customers, Norman, Midwest City and Del City to reduce their water usage from Lake Thunderbird.

“We’re not talking about a drought year,” Harrington said. “We’re talking about a drought cycle.”

Harrington said this cycle could be similar to earlier decades where the drought cycle spans five to eight years.

“We’re in year three of something that could be from five to eight years,” Harrington said. “We’ve got to start thinking in these terms. This is not something that’s going to go away with a couple of good rains. We’re going to have to think conservation.”

While water levels in portions of the Mississippi are causing problems for barge transport, navigation is generally slow this time of year anyway, according to Tulsa Port of Catoosa Director Bob Portiss.

Located in Northeast Oklahoma at the head of navigation for the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa is is one of the largest, most inland river-ports in the U.S. and is vital to Oklahoma’s economy. The Port has 2,000-acre industrial park with a multi-modal transportation center and an ice-free port providing year-round shipping to ports of the world

In an average year, 13-million tons of cargo, including sand and rock to fertilizer, wheat, raw steel, refined petroleum products and petrochemical processing equipment, is transported on the McClellan-Kerr by barge, accoring to Port data.

.“For the foreseeable future we should be OK along the McClellan-Kerr, ” Portiss said. “If the drought continues we will be concerned.”

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

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