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North Hall County out of drought
Hydrologist says Lanier could reach full pool before summer
A boat navigates through the fog Thursday on Lake Lanier at Holly Park in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

A state drought monitor released today indicates North Hall County is no longer suffering from drought conditions that have plagued much of the county for nearly eight months.

North Georgia has benefitted from recent storms that have dumped 3.5 inches of rain on the Gainesville area in the past week, according to the National Weather Service.

Much of middle and south Georgia remain in a severe drought.

"We did get some beneficial rain," State Climatologist Bill Murphey said. "The northern sections have lucked out and actually got most of the rainfall from the past few systems."

South Hall's drought conditions have also improved in the last week, moving from moderate drought conditions to abnormally dry.

The rain continued Thursday for parts of Northeast Georgia, bringing the potential for severe storms and the expectation for an inch of precipitation. Rainfall is expected to continue into this morning, and be followed by dry conditions.

Officials were concerned the storm systems could bring floods to the area, but Murphey said the current storm system is moving at a fast pace and floods are not expected.

The rain has benefited Lake Lanier with levels rising by nearly 1.5 feet in the past week, according to readings from the United States Geological Survey. Lake levels have increased by more than 2 feet for the entire month.

Forecasters predicted last week the lake would rise by a foot during the period of Jan. 18 to Feb. 18, which has already been exceeded, said Kent France, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

As of Thursday evening, the lake's level sat at 1,062.08 feet, compared to the historical average of 1,066 feet.

The lake is considered to be at full pool when it reaches 1,070 feet.

France said it's possible the lake will reach full pool before summer when levels typically decline due to the hot temperatures.

"I was really not expecting it to reach full pool based on our outlook and the way that the rainfall normally works out," France said. "There is the possibility of reaching full pool, but more than likely it's going to be a foot or two less."

France said the lake level is expected to rise another foot over the next four weeks, "but with luck we can maybe exceed that" and near full pool.

Conditions upstream have also improved. Stream flow gages now show normal or above normal conditions in the north and northwestern portions of the state.

"Stream flows improved, ground water is better and soil moisture especially improved," Murphey said.

However, most of the groundwater levels continue to show below normal or much below normal levels south of metro Atlanta.

Gainesville, as well as surrounding areas, was blanketed by fog for much of Thursday, which is a normal occurrence after a warm front moved through the area Wednesday night that left Northeast Georgia in a warm air sector, Murphey said.

Some areas could have more patches of fog overnight, especially in low-lying areas with high levels of soil moisture from all the recent rain.

For at least the next few days the warm temperatures that have been present this week will continue, Murphey said.

Because of those unusually warm temperatures, the area may have escaped the chilling cold temperatures that brought snowstorms that wreaked havoc throughout the state last year.

"I don't foresee any major cold outbreaks like we had in December and January of last year," Murphey said. "Not to say we couldn't have maybe one more."

Murphey said cool temperatures could be in store for the weekend, but the moderately warm temperatures are expected back at the beginning of next week.