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Dry weather has Lake Lanier dropping

Corps forecasts lake at 1,065 feet in 5 weeks

POSTED: June 22, 2011 11:16 p.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Kenneth Bowlin casts his line into Lake Lanier at Clarks Bridge Park Wednesday. Bowlin is standing on a point of land exposed because the lake is down about 3 feet. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' projections show the lake dropping to 1,065 or about 6 feet below full pool.

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Rain, rain, where did you go?

Except for the occasional cloudburst, accompanied by a fierce storm, it hasn't been falling a whole lot lately across Georgia.

And as dry as it may seem in the Hall County area, South Georgia is suffering from extreme drought and the southwest corner of the state has deteriorated even further, to exceptionally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Hall County has been in "abnormally dry" conditions for several weeks.

Lake Lanier, which came out of a historic two-year drought in 2009, stood Wednesday at nearly 1,068 feet above sea level, or 3 feet below full pool. The last time the lake hit that mark was May 1.

"Most of the Southeast is experiencing drought conditions," said Lisa Coghlan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Lanier.

The corps' five-week forecast has the lake dropping to 1,065 feet by the middle of July, she added.

Stream flows across South Georgia are "extremely low," state climatologist David Stooksbury said Wednesday.

He cited several "daily record-low flows" across the region.

The U.S. Geological Survey confirms that, saying levels of South Georgia's waterways have fallen to record lows.

Gauges on the Flint River showed the average depth of the river at 1.31 feet Friday, and discharge from the river was at 606 cubic feet per second. That number compares to a maximum output of 17,500 cubic feet in 1965 and a minimum average output of 715 cubic feet in 2000.

Falling levels have raised the corps' concerns about the impact on the entire Apalachicola-Flint-Chattahoochee River basin, which includes Lake Lanier.

"Lakes in the upper reach have been used to help meet the required flow in the Apalachicola River to protect endangered species," corps spokesman E. Patrick Robbins said in late May.

Despite the worsening drought, "rain events could quickly turn that scenario around," Coghlan said earlier this week.

Kelly Randall, director of public utilities for the city of Gainesville, said he personally noticed extremely dry conditions on a recent visit to Alabama.

"Really, as far as the levels of Lake Lanier go, at this point I'm not concerned that we're running into a similar scenario that we had back in 2007," he said.

"I think that people are really more prepared. But, if it doesn't rain for three or four weeks, certainly my opinions will change.

"Right now, we are cautiously optimistic."

Pam Knox, assistant state climatologist, has said summertime weather forecasts are often hard to make.

"Part of that is because (they are) dependent on what the tropics are doing and where the tropical storms go," she has said. "We know it's going to be another fairly active year, but we don't know whether those storms are going to come over Georgia or ... go to Texas."

Weather conditions could be turning in the Hall County area - at least for the near future.

The National Weather Service in Peachtree City is calling for a chance of thunderstorms through next Wednesday.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

 



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