Wildfire danger looms as dryness envelops state

By Johnny Jackson


Officials are reporting that abnormally dry conditions have reached Henry and Clayton counties, while even more serious conditions have enveloped west and south Georgia.

About 92 percent of the state is abnormally dry, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center's U.S. Drought Monitor report, published on Sept. 16.

The report revealed that nearly 40 percent of the state's dry territory is experiencing mild to moderate drought conditions. That is up from 10 percent reported a week prior.

With temperatures remaining above normal, and rainfall below normal, soils continue to dry across the entire state, said State Climatologist David Stooksbury, in a recent climate report.

"As the dryness worsens over the next few weeks, wildfire danger will increase," Stooksbury said in his report. "Currently, wildfire danger across the state is rated from high to extreme. Anyone involved in outside activities needs to be very cautious. Because of the dryness, any fire, regardless of how small, can quickly get out of control."

The state climatologist said the dryness, associated with a La Nina weather pattern, could increase through the winter without significant moisture-producing events, as from tropical weather systems.

"It is too early to tell exactly how the La Nina pattern will impact Georgia," Stooksbury said, "but we need to be aware of the possible short-term tropical impacts, and the long-term drought impacts."

Already, he added, streams are dropping across the state as the region heads into the fall, traditionally the driest time of year for Georgia. Conversely, local reservoirs continue to maintain healthy water supplies.

"We're still prepared for [a drought] in terms of water supply," said Roderick Burch, finance director for the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority. "Our plan to deal with that is already in place. When we completed the Tussahaw Reservoir, that gave us a supply to last more than one year."

"If there is a drought this next summer, then the state [Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources] will likely step up outdoor water restrictions," Burch continued. "But right now, we do not foresee any reason for Henry County to enact any outdoor water restrictions any more stringent than those already in place."