Low rainfall means "high to extreme" wildfire danger

The recent lack of rain and predictions of more dryness to come are prompting warnings of drought and wildfire danger.

Most of Georgia has received a half to two thirds of the normal rainfall over the past month, resulting in abnormally dry conditions, state climatologist David Emory Stooksbury said Thursday.

Streams are running low, the soil is drying out and the La Niña pattern is expected to bring a dry, warm winter to much of the Southeast, Stooksbury said. "This increases the probability of widespread and significant drought for next year," he said.

Soil moisture is exceedingly low in some parts of Georgia: across the southern half of the coastal plain, soil moisture is running at the fifth percentile, meaning 95 out of 100 years the soils should be wetter than they are.

The result: plenty of kindling in the forest.

"As the dryness worsens over the next few weeks, wildfire danger will increase," Stooksbury said, adding that the wildfire danger is already "high to extreme."

Anyone involved in outside activities should be "very cautious," he said. "Because of the dryness, any fire, regardless of how small, can quickly get out of control."