More of Georgia is experiencing a severe drought. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

Severe drought expands in Georgia

A severe drought that started to impact metro Atlanta earlier this month has now expanded across more metro areas and east Georgia.

“The longer we go without rain, the bigger that area is going to get,” Channel 2 Action News meteorologist Karen Minton said.

By June 16, metro Atlanta had entered a severe drought that also reached northwest areas including Calhoun, Rome and Blairsville. But areas northeast of Atlanta were spared from more severe conditions.

Well, now cities including Gainesville and Athens also earned a severe drought designation from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Little substantial rainfall is partly to blame.

Georgia has gotten 1.85 inches less rain than it usually gets at this point of the year, meteorologists said. And water levels at Lake Lanier, metro Atlanta’s main water source, have been slowly decreasing.

When the lake is full, water stands at 1,071 feet. Water was about 3 feet short of full at 1068.19 feet June 17 and was 1067.89 feet tall Thursday, the Weather Service reported.

Now that’s not cause for panic or even state-mandated watering restrictions — the state has its own process for determining when to declare a drought — but residents should have a plan.

When it does rain, trees affected by dry conditions for long periods of time are more likely to break and uproot during storms. Arborist Joel Twist said although northwest mountain regions are experiencing the drought, it has a greater impact on plants in metro areas.

“Trees struggle with the lack of rain, and then when we do get rain, it often runs right off in these areas,” Twist said. “They also see the effects of heat and lightening reflection from the cement, buildings, etc.”

He warned homeowners to survey their land and trees for potential risks like dead wood, cracks or decay.

“Other things to keep an eye on during the year include exposed roots or lack of soil near the trees’ roots, wilted leaves, discolored foliage and unstable leaning trunk,” Twist said. “These symptoms signal tree weakness and can increase risk for property damage when storms hit.”

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