|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
March 20, 2006 - After finishing up 2005 with about half the normal amount of rainfall, 2006 got off to a slow start, the weather system that moved through North East Texas over the weekend pushed both the monthly totals and for the year- to-date ahead of the rainfall average for the year.
Between Friday evening and early Monday morning, Sulphur Springs received an official 4.93 inches of rain. Friday accounted for 0.17 inches of rain and an additional 1.76 inches fell on Saturday. Three inches of rain fell in the city on Sunday bringing the total for March to 6.34 inches, more than two inches above the normal. For the year, the weekend’s rain brought the total to more than 3.6 inches ahead of the average year-to-date amount.
The extended drought conditions, compounded by higher than normal temperatures and windy conditions over the past nine months combined with water demands from cities using Cooper Lake water to bring the lake to its lowest point since Sulphur Springs began taking water from that lake.
Late last year, City Manager Marc Maxwell told the city council that he anticipated implementing the first phase of the city’s drought contingency plan. In December, the council was told the plan might be brought into play in February, but the weekend weather had a positive impact for the city.
“It has had a huge impact,” Maxwell said. “The lake levels at Lake Sulphur Springs is over full right now and that is just a huge relief for the city when it comes to the drought contingency management plan.”
At the start of this year, Cooper Lake was less than half full and, before the end of February, gates were opened at a lower depth on the intake structure to increase the available water for the pumps there.
This past weekend’s rain event, by Monday morning, had raised the level in Cooper Lake three feet and additional runoff will continue for the next few days.
The city manager said he has been watching the rising water level as well as anticipated runoff into the lake.
“For the next few days after a rain event, it will do again what it did during the rain event,” he said. “So, if we caught three feet, one might assume we will do close to that again — we’ll find out.”
Lake Sulphur Springs, which can supply at least a full year’s water reserve for the city if Cooper Lake reaches a point the city can no longer draw water from it, was running over the spillway Monday morning.
Coleman Lake, although not used as a water reserve, is just two feet below the full mark. Maxwell said the lake provides a cushion to prevent flooding in the business area just across Main Street from the dam.
“We used to have a lot of flooding, but we rerouted a lot of the drainage with some street projects so the water runs into the lake rather than going around it,” he said. “We manage the lake at four feet below the top of the spillway so that when we have a major rain event like this, we catch it in the lake, run it through and let it out at a slower place.”
With the welcome increase in water reserves, Maxwell said drought concerns have been moved to the “back of my desk.”