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Wet winter in store

By Justin Boron

Clayton County received just over two inches of rain Tuesday, nudging it into the plus for the year as weather officials expect a wetter than usual winter.

The recent downpour bumped the total inches fallen for the year to 41.38, one-third of an inch above the normal rainfall for the year, and drowns any concerns about a possible drought year, said Matt Sena, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

The area has swayed in between drought predictions throughout the year until a spate of tropical weather and hurricanes quashed any possibility that the year would end in a drought for north Georgia.

"We've been cycling back and forth this year," Sena said.

A short-term drought in spring raised concerns of weather officials, he said.

But a wet summer and an extremely rainy September has weather officials optimistic.

"If anything we're too wet right now," said Jim Noel, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service.

Jeff Dobur, another hydrologist, said the U.S. Drought Monitor had taken the area off its list.

"Right now, we're doing pretty good," he said. "We've come back pretty well with all the rain."

Although the rain saves the Clayton County, it can wreak havoc on construction projects.

But that has not been the case for the dozens of Special Local Option Sales Tax projects that have been started in the county in its first year of collecting the tax.

Projects like the Flint River Road widening have managed to jump ahead of schedule despite the rain, said Wayne Patterson, the director of transportation and development.

The extra rain has caused several sporadic one-day delays in construction around the county yet the stops and starts haven't slowed down progress, he said.

"We prepare the sites in a manner that it drains properly so you don't have any standing water after it rains," Patterson said.

As long as there is not too many extended periods of rain, most construction projects will not be affected, he said.

Shifting weather patterns are the overall cause of the recent deluge of showers, Noel said.

There has been a lot of extreme rainfall in the past 10 years since the last major long-term drought ended in 1998, he said.

"Frequency is way up," he said.