For the past 7 years, Haskell County has participated in a cloud seeding program. The program runs through the summer months to help keep water levels up during the hotter temperatures.
Haskell County, along with the City of Haskell, the Development Corporation of Haskell and the Rolling Plains Ground Water Conservation District split the cost to participate in this program. Haskell County is joined by Mitchell, Nolan, Jones, and Fisher Counties, along with the south half of Baylor and Knox Counties.
“It is an important program because our economy is so closely tied to agriculture,” said Kenny Thompson, Haskell County Judge.
The group works with SOAR, LLC, and Gary Walker. SOAR prides itself in being an elite group of researchers and operators with a mission to conduct sound scientific weather modification research and cloud seeding operations efficiently, professionally and safely.
Mr. Walker has been working with SOAR for over 21 years. He first became acquainted with them in 1995 while serving in the legislature. He became a pilot for the program in 1999. SOAR has been involved in cloud seeding programs in Turkey, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. They have also worked with other states such as New Mexico, California, and Oklahoma.
“Not all clouds are suitable for seeding. But, if we seed a suitable cloud, it will produce 15-20% more rainfall than one we did not seed,” added Mr. Walker.
Haskell County representatives receive a daily weather report from the West Texas Weather Modification Association during the program months. This group shares the weather conditions and the likelihood of cloud seeding for that day. They also receive a monthly report letting them know exactly how many clouds were seeded and over what counties it took place.
“Sometimes we seed north in Knox/Baylor and the cloud is moving south which benefits Haskell. Other days we may have seeded in Fisher and the cloud was moving Northeast, and therefore Haskell County receives benefit from that seeding. Seeded clouds normally last longer than non-seeded clouds and grow in the area as well,” said Mr. Walker.
A secondary benefit of cloud seeding is that it can lessen the formation of hail. Less hail damage is in everyone’s interest, but it also helps our farmers by not having their crops destroyed.
“On Saturday, we seeded in Mitchell County and significantly decreased hail that was coming from a cloud in Snyder,” said Mr. Walker.
Another benefit of cloud seeding is the cost of water to municipalities. “If we can create 15% more water in the summertime, that keeps our lake levels high,” said Mr. Walker. The value of the water is 10 to 20 times more beneficial than the cost of the actual cloud seeding program.
For the mathematicians, here are some additional figures. In 2017, 2018, and 2019 the average rainfall in Haskell County for June, July, and August were 7.98 inches. If cloud seeding adds an additional 15%, that is 1.2 inches of rainfall. Haskell County is approximately 500,000 acres. 500,000 acres x 1.2 inches of water = 50,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, so 50,000 acre-feet = 1,629,255,000 gallons.
Overall, the cloud seeding program has been successful this summer. It is dryer than normal, but also hotter than normal. This all affects the suitable clouds available for seeding.
“Cloud seeding is not a magic bullet, but an extra inch of rain at the right time can make a huge difference in our crops and the area economy,” said Lindy Patton, Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation, Inc.
For more information, contact the DCOH at 940-864-3424.
Written by Jimi Coplen, DCOH Executive Director