Well, Old Man Winter has certainly made himself at home this year. We have had two significant snow/ice events within two weeks of each other, which is a phenomenon that has not happened here before that I can recall. The first one “snook” up on us and caught a lot of folks with their pants down and their gas tanks empty — while the politicians were trying to figure out who, what, when, how and “why me”? On a personal note, my daughter and son-in-law endured an eight hour car trip home from the hospital with my brand new grandson, Jace. I think a movie should be made with the title The Night the Roads Went Out In Georgia! I am guessing that all would agree that this has been a winter to remember.
Although the news media has made a great deal about the frozen stuff falling from the skies, there’s a more important story that they are missing: the fact that liquid is falling at all. Back in early spring of 2013, I was talking with a colleague about the drought issue; I posited then that “eventually the rain pendulum will swing the other way.” Not sure how I nailed it, but indeed that’s what has happened. We ended 2013 with a total of 66.02 inches of precipitation, which is 16.31 inches over our yearly average.
Since 2000, the greater Atlanta area has experienced a series of drought years. Yes, there was the flood of 2009, which dumped a lot of water in 24 hours, but overall for the period from 2000 through 2012 the rainfall deficit was 58.85 inches. During those 12 years we essentially lost an entire of year of precipitation, plus some. So, the rainfall of 2013 was just what the doctor ordered and has served to recharge the groundwater system.
During these recent drought years I had numerous conversations with clients about shrinking lakes or ponds, and tried to explain that the real issue was the lack of groundwater. I assured our clients that the only real solution would be rain, but some went against my advice and invested in drilling wells for the purpose of supplementing and raising their lake water levels. This usually led to them having two problems instead of one: still no water in the lake, plus less money in the bank account. Fortunately now their pain has been solved and their lakes “runneth over!” I’m not sure how long these rain years will last, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Back on the subject of our cold winter, I was recently surveying a lake via kayak. The lake was about 50% covered with a “thin” layer of ice. As I paddled around, my initial idea of pushing my way through the ice was quickly aborted and I retreated to the safety of open water. The ice on the lake reminded me of a story that I was once told by a farmer friend. Seems he had a blind bull that went missing during an unusual cold snap (it had been so cold, in fact, that the farmer’s pond had frozen over). The farmer looked high and low for the lost bull, to no avail. Then his gaze fell on a hole in the ice on the pond, and suddenly he realized the poor creature’s fate. And that ain’t no Bull –really.
Now, the skies are full of the sights and sounds of the Sandhill Cranes heading north from their winter home in the Okefenokee Swamp. Hopefully they are on to something.
All the best.
Until next time,
Jim Lanier is President of Aquascape Environmental. He’s succumbed to the lure of creeks, lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands and oceans all of his life. You can read all of his musings here.