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Drought persists, but metro conditions improve

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The area's drought conditions are improving with every day and every late-summer down pour.

The average rainfall amount for metro Atlanta is 36.31 inches year-to-date, which is about 5 inches below normal.

"It's very hard to shake off a drought during the summer," said Pam Knox, assistant state climatologist. "Usually, it takes a good wet winter to bring us out of a drought."

She said summer months are typically the period of time when most rain water evaporates or is used for vegetation and farming.

Georgia has been in a drought since March 2006 and in a Level IV drought since September 2007. The drought has worsened in the northeastern corner of the state, according to Knox. "Last year, the drought was centered in Northeast Alabama," she said. "The center of the worst drought has shifted to northern South Carolina."

Expected rain this week should help the area's drought conditions by keeping rainfall amounts up and on pace with typical non-drought years.

"For us to get out of the drought [long term] would take months of above normal rainfall," Knox said. "For all practical purposes, the short term is not our primary concern. Long term drought affects ground water levels and water supply. Ground water levels are still very, very [low]. But the reservoirs got a little shot from this recent rain."

Those scattered thunderstorms metro Atlanta residents will continue to see this week will be short-lived in relief and sporadic across the region.

"With thunderstorms, its really hit or miss," she added. "It will redistribute the rainfall amounts throughout the area."

Rainfall is slowly improving in the Southern Crescent. There will be a 60 percent chance of rain during the day today and on Friday, with scattered thunderstorms, and temperatures in the mid-80s. Drier weather is expected for Saturday and Sunday with temperatures near 90 degrees.

So far this week, south metro Atlanta has received about two-thirds of an inch of rain with possible rainfall amounts totaling about an inch for the week, according to Sean Ryan, National Weather Service forecaster.

Year-to-date, rainfall amounts are 5.46 inches below average - better than rainfall for 2007, which was more than a foot below normal.

Local reservoirs in Henry and Clayton counties are at their average levels also. Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority's two largest reservoirs, for instance, are currently near full pool.

Henry's 1,400-acre Tussahaw Reservoir is 1.6 feet below capacity and its 1,200-acre Towaliga Reservoir is 4.332 feet below capacity, according to Rodderick Burch, water authority spokesman. Both reservoirs come from watersheds that originate in Henry County. "That's about normally what you'd expect," Burch said. "We still have a year and a half worth of water supply available."

During the month of August, the average daily amount used in Henry County was 19.2 million gallons per day. The authority has the capability of producing 37 million gallons per day.

During the summer months, the 54,000-customer authority sees usage increase by about 40 percent from the winter.

"I'm pretty confident that by spring time, all of our reservoirs will be at full pool," Burch added. "We're in what's called a Level IVc Drought, which is a modification of the drought restriction."

Updated drought information is available at www.georgiadrought.org, which includes information on how to deal with the drought.

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On the net:

Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority: www.hcwsa.com

Clayton County Water Authority: www.ccwa1.com