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September second driest ever

By Michael Davis

September has been so dry, Augustine Hernandez has had to take a hose to some of the plants under her watch at Walker Nursery Farms in Jonesboro almost every day.

The nursery waters its 3,000 to 4,000 varieties of plants mostly from its on-site well, but even that got pretty dry, said Hernandez, the nursery's outdoor manager.

"For the ground to stay wet, and the plants to stay wet, it pretty much has to rain at least a couple of times a week," she said.

The metro Atlanta area was on its way this week to the end of the second driest September on record, meteorologists said.

By the latter part of the week, less than one-tenth of an inch of rain had fallen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where officials readings are taken. The pattern was expected to hold through Friday, giving the Atlanta area a total of only 0.06 inches of rain for September.

"It's typically not as dry as it has been," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Eric Avila. The driest month of the year is usually October, Avila said. October averages about 3.11 inches of rain.

This September might have gone down as the driest on record, if it weren't for 0.05 inches falling on Sept. 26.

That, coupled with 0.01 inches of rain on Sept. 16, which broke a 16-day dry spell, gives the area its current official rainfall. That 16-day dry period was the longest since 2001, when there were 28 dry days from Oct. 26 to Nov. 23.

The long dry spell followed one of the wettest Julys on record. As tropical weather systems moved through Georgia, and then traditional summer popup showers set in, July wound up being the fourth wettest, with 14.63 inches falling in the 31-day period. The highest July rainfall came in 1994 when 17.71 inches fell. Normal July rainfall is 5.21 inches, the National Weather Service said.

For Billy Brookins, who owns Locust Grove-based lawn care company Georgia Landscapes Unlimited, the change from wet to dry was abrupt.

"It was like somebody flipped a switch and there was nothing," he said.

During the early part of summer, heavy rains contributed to rapid grass growth, which kept him hopping, but that's all changed this month, he said. "Earlier this year ... it was tough trying to keep up with the rate of the grass with the growth at that time," he said. The onset of dry weather, he said, "actually helped out a little."