Rain, low temps helping with drought

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Although parts of Georgia are no longer experiencing drought, the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has not lifted the Level 1 Drought Response in Habersham County. 

The EPD declared a statewide Level 1 Drought Response on Oct. 18. The drought response calls for a public information campaign to remind people to be careful with water use.  

Previously, the town of Alto implemented some water restrictions as well to conserve water. 

According to the United States Drought Monitor map that was released Nov. 14, most of Habersham County is still experiencing moderate drought. 

However, Habersham County also experienced above normal amounts of rainfall in October that may have helped alleviate the drought conditions, said Joshua Palmer, meteorologist with the Greenville National Weather Service. Palmer added that drought conditions are based on a variety of factors though, including impact, water restrictions, soil moisture and more.  

Andrew Kimball, another meteorologist with the Greenville National Weather Service, told The Northeast Georgian Habersham County got between half an inch to an inch of rain last week. 

“Within the last 30 days, the high terrain, northwest corner of the county had more precipitation than the southeast end,” he said. 

The southern part of the county, including Cornelia and Baldwin, got about 5 inches of precipitation and the northwest part of the county around the Lake Burton Area got over 10 inches of precipitation, Kimball said.    

Year to date as of Thursday, Kimball said the southeast corner of the county got about 50 inches of rain, while the northwest part of the county got between 70 and 80 inches of rain.

For the city of Cornelia specifically, Kimball said the annual mean of precipitation is 57.51 inches. So far, Cornelia has received about 7.5 inches below normal of precipitation. 

Overall compared to last year, Palmer said in the highest parts of the county, Habersham received about 100 inches of rain in 2018. The rest of the county received generally anywhere from 80-100 inches of rain. 

For the month of October, Palmer said Habersham County saw anywhere from 125% to 250% of normal rainfall for the month. So far in November, he said the county has seen about 50%-75% below normal rainfall. 

“October turned wetter and helped remove the severity of the drought across the county,” Palmer said. “… It’s good improvement, [and] we’re entering a wetter time of year so we should expect more activity towards Thanksgiving.” 

Michael Wood, chief ranger for the Georgia Forestry Commission office in Habersham County, told The Northeast Georgian rainfall and below normal temperatures has reduced the likelihood of wildfires in the area during this time of year as well. 

“We were dry late summer, but we started getting rain several weeks ago,” he said. “Fire danger hasn’t been too high. The rainfall has reduced our potential for wildfires. Once these leaves fall, that’s when typically we would start having more fire calls.” 

According to Wood, there have not been a lot of fire calls in the past few years because there’s been rain during the times that would typically be wildfire season. 

He said the Georgia Forestry Commission office in Habersham County also covers Rabun, White and Stephens counties. The commission only responds to wildfires. In North Georgia, wildfire season is typically around November, but peak wildfire season for the state is from March to May.