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Drought still grips Gwinnett
September too dry to improve conditions

LAWRENCEVILLE - Hurricanes Gustav and Ike might have disrupted Georgia's gasoline supply, but they sure didn't disrupt the ongoing drought.

According to the state's climatologist David Stooksbury, a dry September actually made drought conditions worse in many parts of the state.

"Tropical Storm Fay brought beneficial rain to Georgia in late August," Stooksbury said in a statement released Wednesday. "But most streams in the state's northern half are at or near record low flows for this time of year. Because of the extremely low stream flows, many counties have had their drought level classification changed to a more intense drought level."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Lake Lanier was at a record low for this time of year at nearly 17 feet below full pool. For Gwinnett County, extreme drought is still how the present situation is being classified. Stooksbury said this condition comes along once every 50 years and holds true for all counties north and east of a line from Burke, Jefferson, Washington, Hancock, Putnam, Morgan, Walton, Gwinnett, north Fulton, Cherokee, Pickens and Murray.

Burn ban lifted

In other related news, October's arrival also means it's open burning season again outdoors for those who like to clear vegetation and yard debris from their property. Outdoor burning is prohibited each year in Gwinnett from May 1 to Sept. 30.

According to Capt. Tommy Rutledge, a spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department, Gwinnettians should still check with the fire marshal on a daily basis if they are planning to burn outside.

"There may be certain days that are designated as a no-burn day because of weather and atmospheric conditions," Rutledge said. "Outdoor fires can spread quickly due to steady winds and dry-dense vegetation or underbrush."

Rutledge said even though Wednesday was the first official day of the outdoor burning season, it was a no-burn day because of the gusting winds.

"Never burn on a windy day," he said. "No outdoor burning is allowed if winds exceed 15 miles per hour because steady winds contribute to the fast spread of outdoor fires."

Regarding additional rules for outdoor burning, it is only allowed during daylight hours and is not permissible on Sunday. And burning anything other than natural, fallen vegetation is prohibited. Rutledge also said that burning piles should be no larger than three feet by three feet and should be at least 50 feet away from any structure or wooden fence. There is also no burning allowed when it's overcast, raining, foggy or within 24 hours of a rainfall.

For more information on outdoor burning rules and regulations, call the fire marshal at 678-518-6100 or check out the Web site at www.gwinnettfiremarshal.com.

Click here to view current drought data