By: Bill Kinsland
(Sautee)- In the drought report released this Thursday (May 18th), the National Drought Mitigation Center shows Georgia’s overall drought-coverage area has increased slightly since last week.
– Some 88 percent of Georgia’s land area is now in some degree of drought. The area affected by the extreme drought (D3) has increased somewhat (currently 7.21%) mainly in southeast Georgia around the area of the West Mims Fire.
-However, the good news is that the extreme drought in White County has improved slightly over the past two weeks, particularly in the northern part, mainly in the Chattahoochee National Forest. In that region, drought levels have been reduced to “Severe” (D2) and “Moderate” (D1) levels. The main part of the county from Sautee southward remains in “Extreme” (D3) status…except for a small area in the extreme south parts of the county where “Severe” (D2) conditions persist.(See attached map)
– The rainfall of the past seven days (0.15 inches) has done little to improve the situation. All surface and ground water levels remain below normal. See this morning’s figures below.
– We note that White County has been in some degree of drought continuously since March 29th of last year… some 59 weeks. Most of the county has experienced extreme (D3) or exceptional drought (D4) continuously since October 18th…about 30 weeks. This drought is classified by National Drought Mitigation Center as a “Long Term Drought”.
-Year-To-Date rainfall totals remain below normal. As of 7 AM this morning (May 18th), White County’s year-to-date rainfall stands at 20.80 inches which is 4.55 inches below normal (25.35 inches). This figure is 82% of the level normally expected for this time of year.
The levels below were recorded at 7 AM today (18 May 2017):
-A)The Chattahoochee River level at Helen is 0.57 ft which is -0.33 ft
below normal (0.90 ft).
-B)The water level at Lake Lanier is 1063.10 ft. which is 7.90 ft
below normal pool (1071.00 ft.)
-C)The USGS well level at Unicoi State Park is -5.23 ft which is -0.92
ft below normal (-4.31 ft.)
-D)Soil moisture at Three Sisters Vineyards was 27.8%.
-According to NOAA forecasters at National Weather Service in Peachtree City, the current 90-day outlook for May through July shows that most of northern Georgia can expect above-normal temperatures and near-normal precipitation.
The question arises: “How can we possibly be in a bad drought when we’ve had so much rainfall recently?”
The simple answer is this: We have not had so much rainfall recently.
Although we had above-normal rainfall for the month of April (6.80” vs
normal of 4.54”/ +2.26” above normal), April was the first month since last August to have a positive rainfall balance. However, the improvement was short lived. May is on track to be another very dry month. We are over half way through the month and we have received only 60% of our normally expected month-to-date figure.
Again, this is a long-term drought. Of the past 12 months, 10 months had a negative rainfall balance and only 2 months were positive (August 2016 and April 2017).
Looking at 12-month rainfall totals, we have recorded only 44.04” which is 21.72” below normal… only 67% of normal levels.
Additionally, our ground and surface-water levels remain well below normal and have remained so for over a year now. Given these data, a long-term extreme-drought rating is understandable.