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Despite upgrade in drought status, Lanier's not out of trouble
Summer evaporation will work against recent rains
0515Lanier
The recent rainfall increased Lake Lanier’s water level to 1,065.22 feet as of 8:15 p.m. Thursday night. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
Click here for Lake Lanier's updated level

An official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says despite great gains in the level of Lake Lanier, the inflows into the reservoir still are low.

Andy Ashley, basin manager of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system said the corps is predicting additional gains for Lanier, but it comes as warmer weather and higher evaporation is about to begin.

"It’s been a great year and we’ve made great gains on Lake Lanier," Ashley said. "But if you look at inflows, we’re still below average. We had horrible years in ’06, ’07 and ‘08, making ’09 look really good."

The other factor in Lanier’s favor is that there have been plentiful rains in the lower Chattahoochee, keeping West Point Lake and Lake Walter F. George near full pool.

"West Point is above full pool," he said.

He said forecasting lake levels accurately can be made only three to five days out.

"The meteorologists are telling us that the next month is going to be normal to better than normal in terms of precipitation for the whole basin, and that’s good news," Ashley said.

He said releases from Lanier have been minimal this year.

"The only thing we’re letting out of Lanier since the end of 2007 was to meet the Atlanta city water supply and water quality," he said. "Since Lanier was so low, we weren’t letting anything out of there except what we had to."

He said the required flow demands at the Florida line are being met by the water in the lower Chattahoochee and Flint rivers.

Ashley could not say if Lanier would return to full pool of 1,071 feet above mean sea level this year.

"We’ll usually peak in the months of April or May, sometimes June," he said. "We’re now approaching mid-May and are starting to run out of these large rain events."

The drought that has ravaged Georgia for a couple of years now almost is gone, with a small swath of Northeast Georgia and the northern end of Hall County, considered "abnormally dry."

The U.S. Drought Monitor, updated every Thursday, shows the improved conditions affecting mainly North Hall and parts or all of 13 other counties. The abnormally dry designation is the lowest of five drought intensity designations.

Previously, part of Northeast Georgia, including all of Hall, was in moderate drought, the second-lowest designation, while another portion was deemed as abnormally dry.

One year ago, by comparison, the state ranged from abnormally dry to extreme drought. Only 35 percent of Georgia had normal rainfall amounts. Other counties included in the abnormally dry designation include Banks, White, Habersham, Towns, Rabun, Stephens and parts of Lumpkin counties.

As of Wednesday, Hall County had received 24 inches of rain for the year, nearly an inch more than the normal amount, according to AccuWeather.com.

Showers or thunderstorms are in the forecast through Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

The rainfall also has boosted Lanier’s level to 1,065.22 feet as of 8:15 p.m. Thursday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The last time Lanier was at full pool was Sept. 6, 2005.

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