Sonny Perdue holds prayer vigil for rain amid devastating Georgia drought

Gov. Sonny Perdue wasn't the least bit discouraged Tuesday after his hourlong state Capitol prayer vigil for rain ended with the sun shining through what had been a somewhat cloudy morning.

"God can make it rain tomorrow, he can make it rain next week or next month, " Perdue told reporters who asked him if a miracle was on the way.

More than 250 faithful Georgians joined Perdue outside the Capitol to ask for divine intervention to end the historic drought.

"We come here very reverently and respectfully to pray up a storm, " Perdue told those in attendance.

About a dozen TV cameras representing local and national stations and more than a dozen print reporters and photographers captured the ceremony. At one point a TV helicopter threatened to drown out much of the sound.

The Rev. Gil Watson, pastor of Northside United Methodist Church, urged those in attendance to "pray believing we should have all brought umbrellas.

"We have not been good stewards of our land. We have not been good stewards of our water, " he said. "Lord, have mercy on your people, have mercy on us and grant us rain. Oh God, let rain fall on this land of Georgia."

There were none of the dramatics of 1986, when then-Gov. Joe Frank Harris remembers that drops started falling right after a prayer service held in hopes of quenching that era's historic drought.

But the National Weather Service said there was a fair chance that some light rain might fall in North Georgia today.

"We're not going to break any drought, " said meteorologist Robert Beasley. "But it's better than nothing."

Twenty-two protesters were forced to stay more than a block away, out of earshot and out of sight of the prayer service, on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. They were members of the Atlanta Freethought Society. Signs include "Hail Priest-King Perdue" or "Pray on the Church Steps, not the Capitol Steps."

A few minutes before the service a man police later identified as Robert D. Rothlisberger Jr., 44, of Clarkston, was arrested in front of Central Presbyterian Church, across the street from the Capitol.

Police pulled a small sign from his hands --- which on one side read "Ten Commandments" and the other side "H.R. 536." The latter was a reference to a measure before the state Legislature that would declare human life to begin at the moment of conception. He was later released by Capitol police after being given a trespassing warning.

Perdue said after the event that Georgians have not done "all we could do in conservation" and that the drought was an attempt by God to "get our attention."

"Hopefully we will be better conservators of the blessings God's given us as he gives us more [rain], " the governor said.