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Tropical storm brings little rain, change to lake
Elevation could be at 1,061 feet by mid-Oct.
Low lake levels have not compromised any of the docks at Aqualand Marina in Flowery Branch. If the lake continues to drop, however, plans will be made to move affected boats. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Lake Lanier gained little from Tropical Storm Lee's remnants earlier this week, rising only an inch or so, as the region didn't come close to the rainfall amount that had been projected.

"We received little or no runoff and that's how a lake of that size is replenished," Lisa Coghlan, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, said Wednesday.

"With it being so dry (in North Georgia), the soil just immediately saturated the water."

Northwest Georgia, much of which is in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa basin, caught the brunt of the system as it swirled northward from the Gulf of Mexico, with some places receiving as much as 10 inches.

By comparison, Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville recorded 1.6 inches during the storm, which passed through the area on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

"If you went south of (Interstate) 85, generally rainfall was less than an inch," said David Stooksbury, state climatologist.

Before the system arrived on Monday, the weather agency was predicting up to 7 inches for Northeast Georgia, including the Hall County area.

Seven inches would have all but wiped out the rainfall deficit for the year.

Hall County is in a moderate to severe drought, while most of Georgia is in extreme drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., will release its next weekly report today.

Michael Wheeler, coordinator of the Hall County Cooperative Extension Office, has said the largest impact from the drought on area agriculture is hay harvesting.

Stooksbury said, "In September and October, we are highly dependent on tropical systems to bring us bountiful rainfalls. If we don't have tropical weather, it stays dry."

And, he added, "It looks like the storms and potential storms that are in the Atlantic (Ocean) right now probably will miss us."

Lake Lanier stands at 1,064.34 feet above sea level, with the summer full pool at 1,071 feet.

Based on current trends, the elevation is predicted to be about 1,061 feet by early to mid-October, Coghlan said.

At 1,063 feet, the corps will stop issuing dock permits, a process it restarted a few months after the 2007-2009 drought ended in October 2009.

Swim lines at Lanier's beaches are set at 1,064 feet.

"Visitors should use extreme caution when swimming outside of designated swimming areas due to the potential for underwater hazards and deep drop-offs," according to a statement released by the corps last week.

"As the lake level drops, increased awareness and caution must be used by the public when visiting Lake Lanier for any purpose," Coghlan said.