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Fay soaks North Georgia; over 5 inches of rain has fallen

Rain quenches area’s thirst for water, for now

POSTED: August 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

A weather-prepared Brenau University student walks Monday evening along the sidewalk near Pearce Auditorium as a light rain kept the campus soaked.

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Remnants of Tropical Storm Fay are giving Northeast Georgia a soaking like it hasn’t seen in months, meteorologists said.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Gainesville had received 5.1 inches of rain at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport since Saturday, when measurable amounts of rain associated with the storm were first received in the area, according to the National Weather Service.

From Sunday evening to Monday evening, Lake Lanier rose about 3.2 inches, according to the weather service.

Gainesville could receive up to 6 inches of rain from Fay by Wednesday, said Rob Handel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

"It’s definitely one of the more extensive rainfall events in the area in months," he said. "It’s definitely going to help alleviate some of our drought conditions."

Mike Griesinger, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the rain should ease North Georgia’s "exceptional" drought, noting that Atlanta has a rainfall deficit of 8 inches and Athens 15 inches during the past year.

State climatologist David Stooksbury said the rain will improve stream flows, pastures and slightly raise the levels of major reservoirs such as lakes Lanier, Hartwell and Clarks Hill, which are important sources of drinking water.

"This is definitely what we need," he said. "It will not end the drought. It will make a dent."

At 8 p.m. Sunday, water levels at the Buford Dam on Lake Lanier stood at 1,053.24 feet. As of Monday evening, levels were at 1,053.51 feet, compared to 1,053.66 feet on Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported.

The center of the storm is expected to cross over Tennessee today, Handel said. The storm is then expected to move into Virginia and Kentucky by Wednesday evening. He said a flash flood watch remains in effect for much of Northeast Georgia, including Hall County, until this evening.

A flash flood watch means conditions are favorable for heavy rain across the watch area and may lead to rapid rises, especially of smaller streams and creeks. Handel warns drivers to not attempt driving through moving water 6 inches or more deep, as water at that depth has the power to sweep cars into swift currents moving downstream.

According to local authorities, no one in the area was injured from Monday’s thunderstorms. Maj. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said only a few minor wrecks occurred because of wet roads.

In South Georgia, farmers’ crops took a beating.

Georgia’s southern-most counties — Lowndes, Brooks, Grady, Thomas and Decatur — took the brunt of Fay’s wind and rain on Friday and Saturday.

Don Clark, Thomas County’s extension service coordinator, said 17 to 23 inches of rain fell in the county, and the wind ravaged pecan orchards, blowing down limbs, immature nuts and at least 500 trees.

In preliminary assessments, the storm’s high wind and torrential rain seemed to take the heaviest toll on Georgia’s $128 million pecan crop, especially in southern counties along the Florida line.

The tropical blast also toppled corn stalks throughout Southern Georgia.

Sean Ryan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said no tornado touchdowns in Georgia have been confirmed as of Monday evening. Although none have been confirmed by meteorologists, he said there were reports Monday afternoon of a funnel cloud sighting and a tornado touchdown, both in Upson County south of Atlanta.

Northeast Georgia’s Habersham County has seen more than 8 inches of rain since Sunday. As of Monday afternoon, the National Weather Service reported Turnerville Circle and Ga. 115 were flooded because of a creek rising over its banks.

Ryan said Atlanta received less than 1 inch of rain from the storm so far.

In Florida, drenched by Fay last week, floods forced residents in northern parts of the state out of homes Sunday. Some residents started cleaning up Monday as water slowly receded in places, while others saw swollen rivers continue to rise.

As Fay ebbed, a new storm was brewing. The seventh tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season formed in the central Caribbean and was heading for the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

In Georgia, Fay’s winds knocked an oak tree onto the Plains home of former President Jimmy Carter late Saturday. One of the former president’s sons, Jeff Carter, said both his father and his mother, Rosalynn Carter, were at home at the time but neither was hurt.

Fay made landfall a record four times in Florida before it was downgraded to a tropical depression late Saturday. The storm caused widespread flooding as it zigzagged across Florida for nearly a week.

Fay has been blamed for 13 deaths in the U.S., 11 in Florida and one each in Alabama and Georgia.

A total of 23 died in Haiti and the Dominican Republic from flooding.

President Bush declared four hard-hit Florida counties disaster areas.

The declaration makes funds available for emergency work and repairs to governments in Brevard, Monroe, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. More could be added later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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