Heavy rainfall exceeds 17-year norms
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Jul 09, 2013 | 1482 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rumors of a sun sighting Monday over Bradley County may have been exaggerated, but Cleveland Utilities Water Division Vice President Craig Mullinax knows this for a fact: if the clouds don’t dry up, area rainfall totals could reach 34 inches above normal by year’s end.

“It’s just incredible the amount of rainfall [we have received],” Mullinax reported during a rare Monday morning session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities. “... We’ve already exceeded what we got last year.”

Veering far from its norm, the month of July has been a thorn in CU’s water sales. That’s because traditionally arid July skies normally signal the beginning of heat waves and droughts in Cleveland and Bradley County. Neither has surfaced this summer; at least, not yet.

“If we continue this weather, which I hope we don’t for various reasons, we could hit up to 88 inches of rainfall [by the end of 2013] which is almost 34 inches above normal,” Mullinax said. Currently, Cleveland deluges from January through last weekend have already put rainfall tallies here about 17 inches beyond average for this time of year.

Consistently heavy rainfall into July puts Cleveland Utilities at several disadvantages.

One, it overworks the utility’s wastewater collection system which is wrapping up its second year of a major rehabilitation project called SCOPE 10, an acronym standing for Strategic Commitment to Protect the Environment which is a 10-year initiative to curb levels of inflow and infiltration into cracked and damaged sewer lines. In Mullinax’s words, “Our collection system is very, very full right now.”

Two, it stresses the CU wastewater treatment plant to treat excessive effluent, much of which is little more than stormwater and not actual sewage. While no records have been set so far in July, the volume is still pushing the plant to its limits.

Three, it bites dramatically into CU’s water sales because customers don’t need to use irrigation (sprinkler) systems to water their yards, flowers, gardens and pools when Mother Nature is taking care of the chore for them.

“A year ago [at this time] we were dry,” Mullinax said of 2012 rainfall totals. “We were 7 inches below normal ... we’re seeing just an incredible amount of rainfall.”

The Water Division leader didn’t pull his punches against the culprit clouds.

“Hopefully, that (rainfall frequency) will change and things will get back to more of a normal pattern,” he said.

Although Mullinax’s report showed a lot of rainfall, it’s not a record. But, his charts Monday did show the 2013 levels do exceed anything in the last 17 years.

Currently, the Cleveland Filter Plant (which is the rainfall gauge used by CU) has registered a total of 51.39 inches of rain for 2013 as of 8 a.m. Monday. Of that total, 8.12 inches fell during July’s first seven days. According to published reports, some areas of Bradley County have registered almost 10 inches of rain so far in July.

Mullinax pointed to the irony behind the year’s 51.39 inches of rain ... so far. In 2012, the total rainfall amount for all 12 months was 49.85 inches.

“We’ve already exceeded [so far this year] what we got in all of last year,” he said.

And, slightly more than six months worth of rain in 2013 have almost reached “average” full-year levels of 54.13 inches for the Cleveland area.

Month-to-month rainfall totals so far this year include January, 10.90 inches, up from 5.37 in 2012; February, 3.63 inches, up from 3.45; March, 4.72 inches, slightly down from last year’s 4.90; April, 10.51 inches, a huge increase from 1.16; May, 6.20 inches, up from 2.11; June, 7.31 inches, up from 2.65; and July, 8.12 inches (in only seven days), up from 6.01 inches in 2012.

Rainfall totals the last few years include 2009, 68.16 inches; 2010, 48.03 inches; 2011, 71.61 inches; and 2012, 51.39 inches.

Since 1996, the only year to come close to the 2013 totals so far was 2003 when 49.14 inches had fallen by July 7.

The lowest amount of rainfall recorded over the last 17 years came in 2007 when only 18.04 inches had fallen by July 7.

“A lot of rainfall affects us in the sewer collection system (Wastewater Division),” Mullinax said.

It does no favors for the Water Division either.