Enough winter rain?
By David Emory StooksburyUniversity of GeorgiaWinter and early spring rains have helped, but north Georgia remains in severe to extreme drought. The northern coastal plain is abnormally dry. Moisture conditions for the southern coastal plain along the Florida border are near normal for now.From Oct. 1 through the middle of April is considered Georgia’s moisture recharge period, when the state typically gets more rain than moisture loses due to evaporation and plant use.North Georgia didn’t receive enough rain to fully recharge soil moisture, groundwater, streams or reservoirs. Since Oct. 1, north Georgia has received only 70 percent to 80 percent of normal rainfall. Most north Geogia streams are at or near record low flows for late April. At many locations, only 1986 and 2007 stream flows were lower than they are now.Both Lake Lanier and Lake Hartwell are well below desired levels for late April. Smaller reservoirs are near full, though. However, with the extremely low stream flows across north Georgia, these smaller reservoirs must be managed well because drought conditions are expected to continue.From the northern coastal plain to the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, soil moisture is abnormally low. It is especially low across the northern piedmont and into the mountains. In northwest Georgia, soil moisture is extremely low.Soil moisture in south-central and southeast Georgia is near normal for late April. But levels are already decreasing. In southwest Georgia, most flows are low for late April and decreasing. The development of drought conditions over the next month is possible.Late April through October, moisture loss from soils is usually greater than rainfall. If Georgia has normal weather this summer, we can expect the soils to continue to dry out and groundwater levels, stream flows and reservoir levels to drop across the entire state. Updated drought information is available at www.georgiadrought.org. The state drought Web site includes information on how to deal with the drought.The University of Georgia statewide network of automated weather stations can be found at www.georgiaweather.net.