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Rain, lower temperatures help stabilize Lake Lanier
Manuel Hernandez and his daughter, Ashley Lopez, enjoy a break in the recent rain with a walk and tricycle ride Thursday at Longwood Park. The rain and cooler weather this summer has helped steady Lake Lanier’s water level. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville area weather by the numbers

  • 74.5 degrees Fahrenheit: Average temperature for June, based on 108 years of data:
  • 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit: Average temperature for July, based on 108 years of data
  • 1,064.62: level of Lake Lanier Thursday
  • June 2009 was tied for 45th coolest in a recorded 108-year period of Junes
  • July 2009 was ninth coolest in a 108-year period of Julys

At last, rain has returned to summer in Hall County, bringing with it slightly lower and more bearable temperatures.

Even days where there only are a few sprinkles of rain seem to be above average, compared to the last two summers when the county could go weeks without one drop. But in reality, the area’s rainfall has just returned to normal, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Jessica Ufieux.

Rainfall for June and July hovered just below 30-year averages for the area, and temperatures for July were 2 degrees below the 30-year average, Ufieux said.

State climatologist David Stooksbury said June and July ranked as the 26th coolest over a 108-year period. Though some years are tied in the rankings, July ranked as the ninth coolest for that period of record, he said.

Although the lake’s management is a major factor in maintaining water levels in Lake Lanier, the lower temperatures and steady rainfall have helped keep the lake’s level constant this summer, Stooksbury said.

But the lower temperatures and rainfall have had little effect on power bills for Georgia Power customers, according to spokeswoman Carol Boatright. Georgia Power keeps records on summer temperatures, and Boatright said those records indicate that July was the third coolest July in 15 years. June, on the other hand, was the hottest June on record in the last 15 years.

"Because we’ve got our customers on (different billing) cycles, most of our customers will have a couple of weeks of June and a couple of weeks of July on their bills, so it’s pretty much going to even out," Boatright said.

Jackson EMC customers have been using less electricity, however. Jackson EMC spokeswoman Bonnie Jones said the electric membership corporation is selling 2 percent less electricity than it was one year ago.

Although much of the change in electricity use can be attributed to the economy — foreclosed homes, closed businesses and fewer operating hours at open businesses — the lower temperatures also have contributed, Jones said.

Usually in the hot summer months, the utility company often has to run load management in the afternoons to relieve the company’s network from the amount of electricity its customers are using, Jones said. "When we run load management, it is hot," she said.

But this year, Jones said Jackson EMC only has run load management a handful of days.

August rainfall, so far, totals 1 inch, Ufieux said, but with strong possibilities of rain this week, the amount likely is to increase before the end of the month.

Average rainfall for August is 3.97 inches, based on rainfall totals measured from 1971 to 2000, Ufieux said.

Gainesville faces a 70 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms today and a smaller possibility on Saturday.

"It looks like Sunday should be a nice day," Ufieux said.

Any remnants of Hurricane Bill probably won’t touch the United States, much less Hall County, Ufieaux said. On Thursday, the storm was located east of the Caribbean, and the National Hurricane Center has predicted it would travel between Bermuda and the U.S. toward Canada.

There will be little chances of other tropical activity throughout the fall, Stooksbury said. Currently, the area is in an El Niño climate pattern, which means the early and midfall will be drier than normal.

"Much of our early and midfall rainfall comes from tropical activity," Stooksbury said. "If tropical activity is suppressed, it increases the probability of early and middle fall being drier than normal."

But don’t expect the drought to return. A probabilistic forecast shows that Hall County should receive near normal to above-normal rainfall throughout the winter, which bodes well for Lake Lanier next year, Stooksbury said.

"Right now, I would say there is a very good probability that Lanier will be at full pool come spring," Stooksbury said.

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