Will it ever rain again in Georgia?

A drought damaged field in Gordon County. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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A drought damaged field in Gordon County. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

No rain for weeks. Streams flowing at historically low levels. Wild fires raging. A drier- and warmer-than-usual winter predicted.

The Chattahoochee and Flint river basins, running from North Georgia to Florida, are in “historic and exceptional drought,” state and federal climatologists said Tuesday. And the outlook for the next three months looks equally bleak.

“Things will continue to degrade across the area,” said David Zierden, the climatologist for the state of Florida. “This year we will probably have more record streaks without any measurable rainfall than any other year.”

Zierden joined weather experts from across Florida, Alabama and Georgia for their bi-monthly Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin Drought Assessment webinar. The updates, like the weather, get worse and worse.

Cartersville, for example, hasn’t had measurable rain in 49 days. Pastures have dried up across North Georgia. Cattle have been culled. Hay is imported from South Georgia or Tennessee.

"And the soil is so dry you can't even plant a fall crop," said Pam Knox, a University of Georgia climatologist. "If you plant seed in the ground it (won't) germinate."

Gordon County bans outdoor fires, like many Southeastern U.S. counties. Firefighters on Tuesday battled a 20-acre fire in Paulding County with smoke visible near Dallas, Yorkville and Rockmart. Alabama, overall, records 40 new fires daily.

The drought is killing streams. Paul Ankcorn, a hyrdologist with the U.S. Geological Service, says half of Georgia is in a “severe hydrologic drought.” Gauges along the Chattahoochee River near Cornelia and Dahlonega show record low flows, as do gauges along the Flint and other streams.

A Sweetwater Creek gauge, near Austell, recently recorded its lowest daily average flow in 110 years.

No relief is on the horizon. The La Nina weather pattern, comfortably ensconced atop the Northern Hemisphere, isn’t likely to change over the next three months when, typically, the replenishing winter rains arrive.

Georgia officials will talk with utility directors Wednesday and Thursday to determine if the state’s drought warning should be raised to Level 2. By week’s end, Metro Atlantans may be able to water only twice weekly.

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