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Rain may bring relief to parched area
Lake level has fallen over 3 feet since it peaked in April
Thomas Holmes checks for coins or other metal objects Wednesday along the edge of Lake Lanier at Holly Park. Holmes has a little extra area to check with the lake down almost 2 feet from full pool. - photo by Tom Reed

For the first time since early May, the Hall County area might get doused with rain today and Friday.

And that's good news for lawns looking a little less green and Lake Lanier exposing a bit more shoreline.

"Everybody needs (the rain)," said Frank Taylor, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City. "The poor folks in South Georgia have really been hit hard."

On Wednesday, the Weather Service was predicting a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms today, increasing to 60 percent tonight. Kicking off the Memorial Day weekend, Friday holds a 40 percent chance of rain, with the likelihood dropping to 20 percent on Sunday.

Don't expect a widespread soaking, though.

"It looks like it's going to be a hit-and-miss kind of thunderstorms," Taylor said, "but it also looks like the atmosphere is going to be ripe for a good many showers and storms to develop."

Pam Knox, assistant state climatologist, said dry weather — fairly typical for May in this area — has been the case across the state.

"It looks like this (weather) pattern is going to persist for the next couple of weeks, except for some scattered thunderstorms. But (there won't be) widespread rain," she said.

In Georgia, all but the northern tip of the state, including North Hall, is experiencing some level of drier-than-normal conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

South Hall is part of a swath across Georgia that has been described as "abnormally dry." Parts of Southeast and Southwest Georgia are in "extreme drought."

The Drought Monitor will issue a weekly report today giving updated conditions.

With a couple of modest exceptions, Lake Lanier's water level has been steadily dropping since it peaked this year at 1,072.13 feet above sea level on April 17.

On Wednesday, the lake had fallen to 1,069.08 feet, or slightly more than 3 feet in five and a half weeks.

Full pool is 1,071 feet.

The downward trend has caught the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Lake levels were looking very well in the upper basin during the late winter and early spring months," said E. Patrick Robbins, spokesman for the agency's Mobile District, in a news release last week.

"Then about mid-April, the rain stopped and inflows began going below normal."

Because of record low inflows in the lower basin throughout the late winter and early spring, "lakes in the upper reach have been used to help meet the required flow in the Apalachicola River to protect endangered species," Robbins said.

"Right now, we are experiencing just enough flows throughout the basin to meet the required flows in the Apalachicola River and stabilize the levels of all the lakes in the system, even though they will be below normal for this time of year."

Lake Lanier's five-week forecast has shown that levels could drop to 1,068.40 feet through mid-June.

Summertime predictions, however, are often hard to nail down.

"Part of that is because (they are) dependent on what the tropics are doing and where the tropical storms go," Knox said.

"We know it's going to be another fairly active year, but we don't know whether those storms are going to come over Georgia or ... go to Texas."

And as far as summertime conditions, "generally the best chance of breaking a drought is with a tropical storm," Knox added.

There is good news for those who have forged plans on Monday, which is Memorial Day. The National Weather Service was predicting mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 80s.

The annual Memorial Day parade is set to begin at 10 a.m. Monday, with organizers saying there is no backup plan in case thunderstorms arrive. Storms struck last year, canceling the event.

"Maybe they'll be over by (Monday)," Cheryl Vandiver, who is helping to organize the event, said of the forecasted storms.


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