Severe drought may soon hit Augusta area

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April 30, 2007

Severe drought conditions are just around the corner in our area, and forecasters are saying it could get worse not only statewide but here in Augusta as well.

Parts of southeast Georgia are already suffering. It hasn't gotten bad here yet, but that all could change very soon.

On April 19, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division declared a statewide Level Two Drought response, permitting watering only on designated days. Starting tomorrow, there is a mandatory summer ban on outdoor burning for all counties in the state.

If we could get more rain that would help the situation, but it's best to just prepare for the worst.

"I wish I could tell you that we're looking for a good deal of rain over the next several months, but we're looking at a time of year it's going to be hit or miss," said News 12 Chief Meteorologist Bob Smith.

With almost 30 years under his belt in weather forecasting, Bob says these questions often come this time of year: Are we in a drought? How long will the drought last? What should I do during the drought?

With rainfall levels at or near a deficit, it's easy to see why you'd need the help of an experienced weatherman to help you through the dry spells.

"I get that all the time. As a matter of fact, I try not to, in seasons where we have very little rain, talk about nice days, because a nice day would be a day with rain when you're in a drought," Bob said.

As warmer weather and higher temperatures continue you can expect those water levels to continue to fall...but Bob makes it clear: a drought doesn't necessarily mean a water shortage.

"There's an old meteorology theory, and it is a theory, that when you're in a drought it's hard to break a drought, and the reason for that is the ground gets so dry that it does not enhance the lower level moisture you need for precipitation. So you have droughts feeding on droughts," he said.

"Actually, here in Augusta we have an unlimited supply of water from the Savannah River. The problem is so many people are watering lawns that the pumping stations can't keep up with even though we have an unlimited supply of water, it's capacity that we're looking at. So that's why we have these odd-even days where you can water your lawn."

Here's a good reason to have those water restriction dates in place: rainfall deficits in the worst areas are already 11 to 12 inches. Atlanta is pretty close to that with more than 9 inches below normal. Rainfall deficits in Augusta and Athens are around 5 inches but will likely worsen. Bob says that's because there might be rain and there might not be.

"You get into June, July, and August, and it's pop-up thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening," he said. "They hit one place and miss another, one place may get three heavy rains in a week, and others may get nothing."

Bob's advice to those worried about the drought is simple: take measures to preserve as much water as you can. Following the watering schedule and using common sense to conserve will help. But one thing he hopes you don't do is criticize the weatherman.

"It's certainly frustrating for me, because I'm like everybody else. I have a lawn, I have a garden. So, hey, I need the rain just as much as everybody else," he said. "But I take it in good spirit."

Watering restrictions are in effect statewide and are being closely monitored by local agencies. There are fees and penalties if you don't follow them.

Here are the water usage guidelines for Richmond County and Columbia County:

  • Residents with even numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

  • Residents with odd-numbered addresses may water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

  • No outside watering is permitted on Mondays.

  • Watering is allowed from midnight to 10 a.m. only.

Be sure to check out our Weather Blog for further discussion of the drought outlook.

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