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Despite rain, Georgia mired in drought

File Photo . Lake Lanier

File Photo . Lake Lanier

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Water levels are low at Lake Lanier over the Labor Day weekend. Partially beached docks are shown off Buford Dam Road, just northwest of the dam.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Water levels are low at Lake Lanier over the Labor Day weekend. This is a view from Mary Alice Park Road in Cumming on Saturday.

A few days of rain brought dreary weather and cooler temperatures to Gwinnett and the rest of Georgia -- they won't however, bring the end to what officials call a 25-year drought.

In data released last week, roughly the southern two-thirds of Georgia were considered to be in "exceptional" drought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gov. Nathan Deal has requested a drought disaster declaration for all but two of Georgia's 159 counties.

Gwinnett lies just north of the hardest hit areas of Georgia -- but the northern half remains in "moderate" drought conditions, with, roughly, the southern half in "severe" drought.

It's the worst in the county since 2008, said Pam Knox, Georgia's assistant state climatologist. And there may be no end in the foreseeable future.

"Generally this time of year, if we get relief from a drought it's because we get hit by a tropical storm of some sort," Knox said. "Other than that, with the ground being so dry, there's just no water for storms to form. You really need something fairly dramatic to stop a drought like this."

September and October are typically the driest months of the year as well. Lisa Coghlan -- a deputy public affairs officer for the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls Lake Lanier -- said the lake's levels are already down. Lanier was at about 1,064 feet Tuesday, or approximately seven feet below full pool.

"If it continues we could have potentially a repeat of what happened in 2007," she said. "but the caveat to that is we could have one tropical disturbance or storm and turn it all around."

What happened in 2007 were historically low levels in Lanier and the rest of the state's waterways, and a declared state of drought emergency. The savior from all that, relatively speaking, would be a major tropical storm coming up from the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean and pounding the Southeast with rain.

"Unfortunately we're just waiting for mother nature to replenish the lakes and rivers," Coghlan said. "But one tropical storm or hurricane could come in and offset these conditions overnight."

Said Knox: "If we don't get any tropical storms that come over, the situation will probably get worse and worse."

That, Knox said, is because early long-term forecasts call for a La Nina winter, which typically means drier and warmer conditions. In short, if the drought isn't "fixed" within the next few months of hurricane season, it may not be for a long time.

"If we have a second year where we have a La Nina," Knox said, "that could mean worse things for Georgia."

That said, there's still room for hope.

Said Coghlan: "We're not in dire straits yet."

Comments

BufordGuy 2 years, 7 months ago

When is the last time it wasn't an La Nina winter. Best I can remember it's been that way since 2000.

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