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Rain helps, but drought still not over

LAWRENCEVILLE - January's rain, snow and sleet meant more water than normal was falling from the sky. But a drought that takes a long time to build also takes a long time to end.

"The past 30 days, we've been right on normal, but we're still making up a pretty big deficit we've had over the past six months," National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Sena said.

As of Friday, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport saw 4.82 inches of precipitation in a 30-day period, 104 percent of normal.

But the 16.95 inches of precipitation over a six-month period are just 73 percent of normal, and over the past 365 days, the 30.24 inches of water that have fallen bring the total to 60 percent of normal rainfall levels.

State climatologist David Stooksbury said that despite the increased precipitation levels this month, the area still remains in an extreme drought, and will likely stay that way.

The rivers that supply water to Lake Lanier are flowing at less than 50 percent of their normal rate. Friday, the lake's level was 1,051.42 feet, nearly 20 feet below full pool.

Soil moisture and groundwater levels also remain below normal. Stooksbury said due to a strong La Nina, there is a good chance that temperatures will remain high, and rainfall low, through spring.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, most north Georgia entities reduced water use by 10 percent or more during December. Overall, the state is showing a 13.3 percent reduction in water use for a savings of 103 million gallons a day.

Sena, the meteorologist, said rain is predicted in the short term on Tuesday and Thursday. But in order to erase all the effects of the drought, rain must continue at above-normal levels for an extended period of time.

"It's keeping us at normal levels, which is helping some, but not in any way ending the problems we're having with the drought," Sena said. "The long-term trends are pointing to below-normal rainfall. At least it's causing some temporary relief."

For more information about the drought, see www.georgiadrought.org.