By ROBERT S. MERRILL
October, the first month of the new water year, ended up just like the last month of the past year and that was warm and dry. Local officials, who were concerned about dry conditions in August, are already alarmed about a winter forecast of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.
“We only received .96 of an inch of water in October. Normal is 1.67 inches. We were .42 of an inch below normal. We did get the normal snowfall of one inch,” said King Smith, who records official weather statistics in Preston for the National Weather Service.
Smith said Franklin County is just a few thousand miles away from the destructive path of Super Storm Sandy.
“I wouldn’t want the wind that area received, just the rain. Some of that country got over 12 inches of rain in two days. We haven’t received that much rain in several months,” he said.
Lauritz Smith, a watermaster for Twin Lakes Canal Company, said long-range weather forecasts he has seen and studied are discouraging for above-normal precipitation in southeast Idaho.
“The predictions are kind of grim and that’s not what we want or need. We are extremely dry in the county and we really, really need a good water year with an ample amount of snow in the hills,” he said.
Smith said Winder and Condie reservoirs, that store water for the canal company’s irrigators, are between 50 and 75 percent full right now. Twin Lakes, which holds the most water, is really low. Water from Mink Creek will be turned into that reservoir sometime this week in an attempt to fill it as much as possible before cold temperatures force canals to be drained.
Craig Jensen, a county resident, said he’s seen wasp and hornet nests built really close to the ground when he’s been hunting his fall. “Folks say when this happens it is a good indicator of a dry winter without much snowfall,” he said.
King Smith said he has been looking at the extra-long and short-term forecasts with hope that things will change.
“As far as I can see those in charge of forecasting haven’t changed their minds. We are in for a much warmer and drier winter than normal if their predictions hold true,” he said. “There is a hint the El Nino is not going to be as strong as they thought or nothing will develop at all. Believe it or not, when the El Nino is a small event, we really don’t get much moisture at all. Sometimes when the event really becomes well developed we get dumped on.
“The lower water temps of the central Pacific are now set up for a mild event. Yet nothing is happening. That means El Nino will develop in a few months and will last well into the spring or early summer if it develops at all.”
Smith said not to give anyone any hope, but the boys at the weather service say there might be a huge change in the pattern because of the North Pacific Oscillation. Because this is colder than it normally is, the Western part of the U.S. could be much colder and wetter than normal, he said.
“I mention this only because I read it once on a web site. It was up one day and then the next day it was gone.”
The temperatures were just a bit warmer than normal. October highs averaged out to be 63.2 degrees, where normal is 61, said Smith. The low was 34.4 and normal is 33.1 degrees.
“We enjoyed a great Indian summer. I have had a great time getting things done around the yard in shirt sleeves. No records were set or tied. In fact we didn’t even come close. It just happened to be a warm month.”
The Bear River Basin mountains in southeastern Idaho fared a bit better than the valleys did in October. The average precipitation was 102 percent. Franklin Basin received 117 percent of normal water. Sedgwick Peak only got 81 percent of normal.
This story is sponsored by Franklin County High Markers.
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