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Sunday February 14th, 2016 6:23PM

Ga. drought conditions show dramatic improvement

By Ken Stanford Reporter
All that rain that fell across Georgia this month has had a dramatic impact on the drought - ridding the state, at least for now, of any of the worst case scenarios.

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday morning, shows northeast and northwest Georgia, except for a few isolated areas along the southern border of the regions, are "drought free." That includes all of the mountain counties and as far south as Gainesville and Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cherokee and Bartow counties, all the way to the Alabama line.

Some counties in metro Atlanta, around Columbus, and across south central Georgia are considered "abnormally" dry, according to Thursday's report, while "severe" drought conditions prevail along the coast and elsewhere in southeast Georgia. As for the other counties south of metro Atlanta all the way to the Florida line, they are showing "moderate" drought conditions.

But, for the first time in many months, no county in the state is suffering from "extreme" drought or "exceptional" (the worst case scenario) conditions. A year ago, north Georgia was also virtually drought free but every county south of a line from near Augusta to Columbus was caught in the throes of either an "extreme" drought or an "exceptional" drought. (Click on the accompanying maps to enlarge them and compare conditions today with a year ago.)

The conditions are expected to improve even more by the time the next U.S. Drought Monitor report is issued next Thursday because the data in these weekly reports is as of 7:00 a.m. on the preceding Tuesday. This means this week's information does not take into account the heavy rains that caused flooding across south Georgia on Tuesday and Wednesday for the second week in a row.

As for the level of Lake Lanier, it was up another .14 of a foot overnight Wednesday and was at 1066.78 Thursday morning. It is going to end February about 3.3 feet higher than it was at the beginning of the month. Rainfall across the river basins that feed the lake the past 28 days has been well above average in many places. The total at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville was 6.12 inches; normal is about five inches.
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