(WRDW/WAGT) -- The Savannah River is around 312 miles long, beginning 7 miles above the Hartwell Dam and eventually ending at the Atlantic Ocean.
Most of the River is currently near or above flood stage, but this time three years ago, the Savannah River was around 8 feet higher than today.
The Savannah River at Lake Thurmond crested at 336.03 ft. on January 1st 2016, the third highest crest on record and only half a foot short of the all time record. The historic crest to start 2016 was caused by a very wet December to end 2015.
Rainfall totals for December 2015 were over a foot for many locations in central and northern Georgia. Lake Hartwell, Russell, Thurmond and surrounding creeks are the main areas we focus on for flooding along the Savannah River. Hartwell releases to Russell, Russell releases to Thurmond, and then water is released from the Thurmond Dam into the stretch of the Savannah River that flows through Augusta. These three main reservoirs saw between 8-15" of rain during December 2015.
These impressive totals were between 5-8" above normal for most of the main lakes in December, which led to the 3rd highest crest on record.
So, how does December 2015 compare to December 2018?
While there is a large swath of the North Georgia and the Upstate of South Carolina that saw around a foot for December 2018, it was not as large compared to 2015 totals. Lake Hartwell saw close to a foot for December 2018, but Russell and Thurmond saw much less than 10" in most spots.
Rainfall totals for December 2018 were roughly 3-5" above normal for the month around most of the main lakes, which is why we are currently seeing high water, but not as high as January 2016.
The River is currently 328 ft at the Thurmond Dam, roughly 8 feet below early January 2016 levels.
Winter has been wet so far, but it does look like we will see below average precipitation into mid January. The 6-10 day outlook gives most of the Southeast a 40-50% chance of seeing below average rainfall.
Unfortunately, we are still expecting above average rainfall overall for the rest of winter. The latest el nino southern oscillation outlook has a 90% likelihood of el nino forming this winter. An el nino pattern means a more amplified pacific jet stream that brings more rain systems to the Southeast. It is important to note that we were in a strong el nino pattern during the end of 2015 and through the beginning of 2016 when we had very high water along the river.
Take the necessary steps now to prepare for high water if you live along the river because the lakes and rivers are full and we have a lot more rain heading our way this winter.
If you have further questions about the US Army Corps water management for the Savannah River Basin, click here.