published Friday, July 10th, 2009

Georgia: Drought worries return


by Andy Johns
Audio clip

Kent Frantz

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Sizzling temperatures and a lack of rain have Georgia on an all-too-familiar path.

A report released Thursday labels 80 counties in the state as "abnormally dry," a precursor to a possible drought classification, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Most of the counties included in the area are in the northern and eastern portions of the state, but the dry region includes parts of Floyd, Bartow, Gordon and Pickens counties in the state's northwest.

Unseasonably hot temperatures exacerbated a lack of rain across the state by speeding up evaporation, according to Kent Frantz, a service hydrologist for the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. However, he said the dry trend already has begun to break over the last week, he said.

"No specific trend toward another drought," he said. "We don't want that any time soon."

On last week's Drought Monitor, released this week, Tennessee remained drought-free aside from a small pocket of dry conditions in Lincoln and Moore counties.

Alabama has parts of 17 counties listed as abnormally dry in one pocket in the far southwest and another region in the east-central portion of the state.

Western South Carolina and northeastern Georgia were some of the hardest-hit regions in the historic drought that parched the region in recent years and those areas are showing widespread dry conditions on this week's report.

The Peach State had been primarily free of dry or drought classifications since the middle of May after a historic drought had plagued most of the state since 2007 and some parts since 2006, according to climate data.

Mr. Frantz said officials declared the state drought-free in early June.

"About the time they did that, that's when our pattern changed and we went into a dry spell," he said.

So far this year, Atlanta is about half an inch behind normal rainfall figures. Since June 1, official collections are 1.29 inches behind the normal total of 4.91 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Chattanooga is 2.84 inches behind its average rainfall totals and 1.86 inches behind its normal amount since June 1, Weather Service data show.

Though Walker County is not included in the dry category, some farmers might disagree, said county Extension Agent Norman Edwards. Before storms last weekend dumped water on their fields, row crops such as corn and soybeans were in trouble.

"It was getting kind of iffy," he said, explaining the ground had gotten "severely dry."

"The row crop folks were definitely needing it and it was getting pretty critical," he said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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