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Lake Lanier in good shape heading into winter

POSTED: December 1, 2013 11:29 p.m.

At this time one year ago, Lake Lanier was draining fast, full pool a long-ago memory.

Conditions have reversed for the North Georgia reservoir as full pool adjusted Sunday for winter — dropping to 1,070 feet above sea level from 1,071 feet — and the area otherwise prepares for winter weather.

The lake stood Sunday at 1,071.38 feet, increasing over the past week by nearly a foot, the result of rainy weather.

On Dec. 2, 2012, Lanier was going in the opposite direction, with its elevation at 1,057.15 feet. Levels would plummet to 1,056.33 on Dec. 18-19 before steadily climbing back to full pool. Until then, conditions were reminiscent of 2007-09, when Lanier dropped to a historic low of 1,050.79 feet on Dec. 26, 2007.

Early last week, Lisa Parker, spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Lanier, said the agency had expected to draw down to 1,070 feet by Sunday and the “five-week forecast is projecting that the lake will remain at 1,070 (feet) through December.”

But that was before 2.35 inches of rain fell in Gainesville on Tuesday and Wednesday. As of Sunday, the corps’ website was showing Lanier could drop to 1,070.3 feet by the end of December and the average for the month is 1,064.1 feet.

It was rain that helped bump up Lanier earlier this year, with the lake hitting summer full pool of 1,071 feet by April 13.

The National Weather Service has recorded 69.17 inches of rain so far this year in Gainesville. The normal amount for the year is 53.16 inches, according to agency data.

Despite some droughtlike conditions creeping in elsewhere in the state, “Hall County still looks good,” said Bill Murphey, the state climatologist with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Hall’s rainfall surplus “will help reservoir levels,” he said.

That’s especially the case as the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook calls for below-normal rainfall for much of the Southeast, including almost all of Georgia, and that “drought development” is likely for South and Middle Georgia.

The center also is saying Georgia is neither in an above-normal or below-normal zone for temperatures.

“The reason for that is we’re in a neutral pattern,” Murphey said. “That means temperatures could be all over the place this winter. We could have a few mild spells and then cold outbreaks here and there.

“It does seem like the cold, Arctic outbreaks are coming a little bit earlier than normal, so that says to me we have a shot at getting a few winter precipitation events in North Georgia, at least extreme North Georgia.”


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