Record February rain quenches midstate drought

lfabian@macon.comFebruary 28, 2013 

More than a foot of rain in Macon set a record for February and substantially eased drought conditions.

Since Feb. 1, 12.87 inches of rain fell at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport which is 8.51 inches above historical normal for the second month of the year.

The deluge that brought a 24-hour rain total of 2.77 inches on Feb. 10-11 helped wash away exceptional drought conditions that had a grip on the midstate for at least a year.

On Saturday, 1.73 inches of rain broke Macon’s record of 1.48 inches for that date set Feb. 23, 1994.

The heavy downpours are credited for erasing all remaining pockets of extreme drought in Georgia.

“We have eased drought conditions tremendously in a lot of places,” said Georgia state climatologist Bill Murphey. “There’s still some ways to go, but we’re definitely in the recovery mode.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor tracks dry conditions using five categories.

In color-coded maps, yellow represents abnormally dry -- the lowest level. Tan denotes moderate drought, orange is severe, red shows extreme conditions and maroon is reserved for the highest level ­-- exceptional drought.

In late January, nearly 12 percent of the state was in exceptional drought, including most of Middle Georgia. Almost 32 percent of the state was experiencing extreme drought.

At the end of February, the maroon and red blobs on the map gave way to shades of orange, tan and yellow. North Georgia is no longer in drought.

The maps released Thursday show about 26 percent of the state in severe drought, including eastern Middle Georgia.

Moderate drought has a hold on about 29 percent of the state including western Middle Georgia.

In the past three months, Macon received 7.15 inches above normal rainfall, or 157 percent more than average, Murphey said.

Going back six months, Macon is only 1.93 inches above normal, he said.

Streams are up and groundwater is recharging slowly.

“We still have a ways to go in central and south Georgia,” Murphey said. “Stream flows in southeast Georgia need more, but things look really good statewide.”

Weather projections show the region is continuing in a progressive, neutral pattern without the influence of El Niño or La Niña.

With a lot of air flow in the upper levels, storm systems are moving through repeatedly, Murphey said.

The biggest change this weekend will be a blast of colder air, bringing lows in the 20s.

More rain is possible Saturday and Tuesday, with chances of light snow showers in extreme north Georgia, and maybe some flurries as far south as Middle Georgia.

The better chance for precipitation will be Tuesday, but not a lot of rain is expected.

“These are moisture-starved systems with not enough Gulf support,” Murphey said. “It will give the ground a chance to sink this in.”

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