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Showers raise lake, but year still may be driest

POSTED: January 9, 2008 5:07 a.m.

Though it rained more than an inch in Gainesville for the first time in months, it won't be enough to keep Gainesville from recording its driest year in almost 50 years.

As of 10 p.m. Friday, Gainesville's Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport recorded 1.14 inches of rain in the past 18 hours, according to the National Weather Service.

The last time Gainesville had more than an inch of rain in one 24-hour period was Sept. 14, according to AccuWeather.com. The rainfall received on that date was 1.32 inches, meteorologist John Feerick said.
Matt Sena, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, confirmed that the level of Lake Lanier had risen about a tenth of a foot, or about 1.2 inches, during the day Friday to 1,050.9 feet above sea level. This was attributed not only to the rain received in Gainesville, but also in towns upstream along the Chattahoochee such as Helen.

"It looks like a lot of the upper portion of the basin received an inch to an inch and a half in the past 24 hours," Sena said. He explained that north and northeast of Gainesville, areas where water feeds into Lake Lanier, received significant amounts of rain.

Official rainfall amounts recorded north of Gainesville in the past 24 hours by the National Weather Service include:

  • Dahlonega: 0.95 inches
  • Leaf: 1.22 inches
  • Cornelia: 1.45 inches
  • Helen: 1.6 inches
  • Clarkesville: 1.31 inches

While the recent rain appears to have raised the level of the lake and helps ease the deficit, Sena said much more would be needed.

"It's a start," he said. "The rain we're getting right now, it's a start, but it's going to take a lot more to put a dent in the deficit we've been running."

The deficit has metro Atlanta teetering on the edge of setting a record for the driest year recorded since 1879, when record-keeping began for the region.

Sena said Atlanta's rainfall total is 30.36 inches and the driest year was 1954 with only 31.80 inches.
"If we got no more rain between now and Jan. 1, it would be the driest year ever recorded in Atlanta," he said.

For Gainesville, it's no question that this year will go down as the driest recorded since 1961. According to AccuWeather.com, Gainesville's rain deficit as of 10 p.m. Friday is 23.55 inches, as only 30.17 inches of rain has fallen to date this year. Gainesville's normal annual rainfall through that period is 54.25 inches. Feerick said records dating back to 1961 peg the driest year in Gainesville as 1999, in which the area received 37.93 inches of rain.

Though the rainfall amount for the calendar year will be reset back to zero on Jan. 1, Sena explained that the National Weather Service also tracks weather trends based on increments of several days, up to 365 days. That trend shows North Georgia running significantly behind typical rainfall totals.

As of Friday morning, both Atlanta and Athens are running about 62 percent of normal rainfall over the past 365 days, Sena said.

The best chance for Gainesville to get any additional rain will be Sunday morning into the afternoon, as the forecast looks dry for most of next week, Sena said. The precipitation picture continues to look kind of bleak for the beginning of 2008, as trends for a warmer, drier winter will remain due to the influence of La Niña, Sena said.



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