32 days without rain in Atlanta; drought worsens


Today: Sunny. 77

Tonight: Clear. Low: 48

Tomorrow: Sunny. High: 77

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

As Atlanta recorded its 32nd consecutive day without measurable rainfall and the drought expanded to additional parts of Georgia, the state imposed stiff new watering restrictions.

The restrictions, which limit outdoor watering to two days a week, affect most of metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

More than 22 percent of the state is in an exceptional drought, the most severe category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. More than 52 percent of Georgia is in an extreme drought, the second most severe designation.

“Some parts of Georgia have had the driest 3-month period on record,” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Karen Minton said.

Cedartown, Jasper, Dallas and Montezuma have had 58 consecutive days without measurable rain, the television station reported.

There is some good news.

Smoke that has blanketed metro Atlanta for days is expected to clear by the evening, according to Channel 2.

Temperatures were 75 degrees in Atlanta, 69 in Blairsville and 75 in Griffin just after 1 p.m.

Southern breezes will pick up through the day and blow smoke from wildfires in the North Georgia mountains out of metro Atlanta by 5 p.m.

“It’s going to take a little time,” Minton said, “but it will do that.”

The Air Quality Index was at a moderate 96 in metro Atlanta at 11 a.m., according to AirNow, which keeps track of air quality changes. Air quality has been a problem over the past few days, even worsening to a code red for “unhealthy” air that puts everyone, not just those with respiratory issues, at risk.

The smoke is expected to return to metro Atlanta by the weekend.

When a cold front slides through Saturday, gusty winds up to 30 mph will bring northwest winds back.

“And that brings the smoke back to our area,” Minton said.

There is a 10 percent chance of rain Saturday, according to the latest forecast.

» The Air Quality Scale used in Atlanta:

“Good” AQI is 0 to 50. Air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk.

“Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people. For example, people who are unusually sensitive to ozone may experience respiratory symptoms.

“Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” AQI is 101 to 150. Although the general public is not likely to be affected at this range, people with lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from exposure to ozone, whereas persons with heart and lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from the presence of particles in the air. “Unhealthy” AQI is 151 to 200. Everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects.

“Very Unhealthy” is AQI is 201 to 300. This would trigger a health alert signifying that everyone may experience more serious health effects.

“Hazardous” AQI is greater than 300. This would trigger a health warning of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.

» Here are tips from the Georgia Department of Public Health:

Pay attention to local air quality reports and news coverage related to smoke.

Keep indoor air as clean as possible, keeping windows and doors closed.

Run an air conditioner, and keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean.

Avoid activities that increase indoor pollution such as vacuuming, burning candles or using fireplaces or gas stoves.

Do not rely on paper dust masks, which will not protect your lungs from the small particles found in wildfire smoke.

Follow the advice of your doctor or other health care provider if you have asthma or another lung disease.