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Lanier rising, despite dry April
Corps aims for summer full pool of 1,071 feet by May 1
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Brent Harner hooks up a boat trailer Monday to be moved to make way for paving at Hideaway Bay Marina. The marina is gearing up for a busy season as the lake makes its way back up to summer full pool. - photo by Tom Reed

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Listen as the state’s climatologist, David Stooksbury, talks about current weather conditions in North Georgia.

These dry days might seem eerily familiar, but no worries yet.

Despite April showers replaced by April sunshine, Lake Lanier is steadily climbing to its summer full pool of 1,071 feet above sea level.

A four-week forecast shows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on track to hit full pool a couple days shy of its goal, May 1.

“We are not in a drought situation,” the state’s climatologist, David Stooksbury, said on Monday. “Our moisture levels are still normal (and) ... stream flows are, for the most part, near normal for this time of the year.”

At this time last year, Lake Lanier was at 1062.25 feet as North Georgia was still steeped in a two-year drought. The lake didn’t hit the summer full pool level until Oct. 14.

And then El Niño, defined as a warming or cooling of at least 0.9 degrees over the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean, settled in for the winter, bringing with it steady rainfalls and consistently cold temperatures.

Lake Lanier has stayed above 1,070 feet — as high as 1,073.05 on Nov. 13 — since Oct. 14.

With the winter full pool of 1,070 feet, the lake dropped as low as 1070.04 on April 4. Since then, it has been steadily rising, nearing 1,070.6 feet as of Monday.

Except for some torrential rainfall Thursday, the area has received a strong dose of sunshine and warm — occasionally hot — temperatures this month.

Sunny or mostly sunny skies and the mercury hitting the upper 70s are in store again this week. The next chance for rain, possibly thunderstorms, comes on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

This type of weather “is really following a classic El Niño pattern,” Stooksbury said. “For water managers (such as the corps), that makes it a little difficult when you’ve had so much water and it cuts off real quick — that transition from cool wet to warm dry.”

Kent Frantz, senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service, has said he doesn’t see “any dramatic changes in the weather pattern that would totally shut us off where we go into an extreme dry period.

“If anything, the outlook is for us to pretty much remain near normal as we go into the summer months.”

Good news for businesses that depend on the lake.

Severe drought required some reworking at Starboard Marina, now known as Hideaway Bay, in Flowery Branch.

The marina ended up last year dredging to a depth “where we would have been unaffected by this year’s drought,” said Don Morgan at the time. Morgan’s company operates the marina.

Other improvements were made as well, including a new restaurant, Fishtales.

“It’s like another place,” Morgan said in an interview Monday. “The grounds are totally reconstructed.”

In gearing up for what could be a busier summer than usual, the corps and other emergency agencies plan to hold a safety meeting Friday.

“More generation is likely to occur than in years past,” Chief Park Ranger Chris Arthur said in a press release Monday.

Despite the lake being up and sunny skies prevailing, Stooksbury did give some caution about future weather conditions.

“We are past that period of recharging soil moisture, groundwater and stream flows,” he said. “This is the time of the year we expect those moisture conditions to naturally decrease anyway.”

Plants are blooming, requiring more water, and warmer temperatures are causing water evaporation. And just around the corner is May, one of the driest months of the year.

“The onset (of drier conditions) is earlier than normal and more severe than normal,” Stooksbury said. “What all this is reminding us is that it’s important to use this wonderful gift of water wisely.”

Regional events