Despite some bizarre weather patterns and an unusually wet spring, the annual runoff in Salt Lake County is proceeding normally and shouldn't be a threat to local communities.

Tosh Kano, the county's public works director, passed that welcome word along to the Salt Lake Area Council of Governments here Thursday with an admission that his normal methods of predicting last winter's weather had let him inexplicably down.It seems that E.T., the desert tortoise, and those wascally woolly worms that are Kano's usually reliable weather forecasting colleagues couldn't handle what he called "one of the strangest weather years in the history of Utah."

But no harm done.

Creeks in lower elevations have already peaked without incident, Kano noted, and the prognosis looks good for the "Big Three" canyon tributaries now carrying the spring runoff from Millcreek, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood canyons.

Barring extraordinary storm activity or a heat wave, he said all the mountain snowpack should come down in an orderly fashion without local flooding.

But Kano also conceded that an unusually mild winter followed by heavy spring precipitation had baffled even his veteran team of weather forecasters.

Normally, Kano said, he can tell how severe a winter will be simply by consulting his critters.

When hard winters are coming, he noted the tortoise eats more food to store up fat and the woolly worms start growing thicker coats and putting on weight.

(Most people have similar tendencies, but usually for different reasons - like winter coat sales and Christmas goodies.)

At any rate, Kano said the system has served him well for 15 years and has traditionally given him some idea of the runoff situation for the next spring.

Until this past winter and spring, with months of unpredictable weather.

Taking some good natured joshing from Commissioner Randy Horiuchi and local mayors, Kano was asked whether he had fired his furry little forecasters and the hapless tortoise.

"They committed suicide," he chuckled.

Fortunately, Kano was just joking. He plans to have his team on the job in time to make its annual late-summer predictions and remains confident his critters will make a resounding comeback.