Monday, December 31, 2007

Rain saves Atlanta from drought record

Newsday (New York): This year was almost one for the record books, but then it rained. A lot. After a fourth consecutive day of rain Sunday, 2007 barely missed becoming Atlanta's driest year on record. That dubious honor goes to 1954, when only 31.80 inches of rain fell.

Atlanta is at the center of a historic drought that has engulfed more than one-third of the Southeast. The affected region includes most of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, as well as parts of Kentucky and Virginia.

Even four days of rain couldn't touch the epic dry spell, but normal rainfall levels over the next few months could help return disappearing lakes, rivers and streams to their former glory, Lynn said. Sunday's showers pushed the city up to 31.85 inches for the year, where it is expected to stay as forecasters say Monday -- the final day of 2007 -- will be mostly dry.

Light rain was possible for counties in north Georgia early Monday morning as a system moved through the region, said Brian Lynn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Peachtree City. A parade of rainstorms that began the week before Christmas helped Atlanta escape its driest year on record. Rain fell in the city on 10 of the last 12 days.

But the moisture had only a small effect on Lake Lanier, the metropolitan area's main source of drinking water. The reservoir rose only about a foot from the rain after hitting an all-time low earlier last week. "What's falling now won't show up until tomorrow or the next day," said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the reservoir. "Anything that stops the level from falling is a good thing," he added. "But we'd like to get a whole lot more."

The lack of rainfall across the region has set off intense fighting between Georgia, Florida and Alabama over the federal government's management of water in the region. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has asked the federal government to release less water from its reservoirs, such as Lanier, but Alabama and Florida are concerned about how that would affect their supplies. Last month, Perdue held a public prayer vigil for rain on the steps of the Capitol.

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