Official: Drought getting worse
Climatologist says lack of winter rains have slowed flow of Chattahoochee

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia's drought appears to be getting worse. That was the word Wednesday from the state's lead climatologist David Stooksbury.

In a press release Stooksbury said drought conditions have spread into most of Northeast Georgia and that 18 counties - Hall, Jackson and Barrow included - could now be classified as experiencing extreme drought conditions, an occurrence coming about once every 50 years. He also said western Gwinnett County might as well be considered to be experiencing the same.

"Drought is not like a flood," he said. "It's not like you either have it or you don't."

Citing the natural flow of the Chattahoochee River at Cornelia, something not measurable at Buford Dam because its flow is unnatural in that it's controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, Stooksbury said it's currently 28 percent of normal flow for this time of year. Stooksbury said it's the previous two winters and the lack of significant rains that have gotten this portion of the state into its current predicament.

"Widespread relief now is dependent on tropical storms and depressions, not even necessarily hurricanes," he said. "But to break the back of this drought, we need a significant amount of rain in the winter, and we didn't get it."

Stooksbury also said drought conditions across the rest of the state were worsening as well, with portions of the east nearing moderate drought status and portions of the west nearing severe drought status. According to recorded water levels Wednesday, Lake Lanier is approximately 14 feet below what it should be.

Laura Griffith, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, said there is no significant precipitation in the pipeline either.

Citing Friday and Saturday nights over the coming week as having the best potential for rain, Griffith said, "We're in a summertime pattern with possible isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon. But it's hit or miss."

She also said that for the current summer period of June, July and August, there was a 50 percent chance the area would receive more rain than is normally the average - 12.39 inches. During that same period last year, Metro Atlanta received about 9 inches.