2008-06-11 / Front Page

It's getting hotter and drier

It's getting by MCL staff writer

One of the hundreds of irrigation systems watering the crops getting hotter and drier One of the hundreds of irrigation systems watering the crops getting hotter and drier According to news reports from all over the state, many areas are sinking deeper into drought conditions, and the outlook for this year is expected to be a repeat from last year.

Spring rains didn't erase the deficitfrom last year, and seemingly the rains have slowed or stopped, again.

The last few possibilities for rain in this area seem to split and go to the northeast or the southeast.

State climatologists predict that the drought will worsen over the summer, and hot, dry weather could exacerbate the situation.

One indicator used in drought classification- stream flow- currently shows there is a major concern, said David Stooksbury, who is also a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

The Chattahoochee River at Cornelia - the last gauge before the river enters Lake Lanier - was flowing at 233 cubic feet per second on Friday, which is about one-third of the normal flow, Stooksbury said. That matches the point's low flowrecord set in 1988, he said.

"We're starting to beat a 50-year record," he said, adding, "Conditions will worsen if it's just a normal summer. Hot, dry weather will aggravate it even more so - it will make it that much more worse."

The June 3, U.S. Drought Monitor show that Southwest Georgia was rated abnormally dry. To the south, there was notable dryness (25-50% of normal) over the past 30-60 days.

The spring rains may have given some people the perception the drought was improving, but Stooksbury said that's not the case. The rains were "regularly spaced events," but the rainfall was much less than normal.

With a week of temperatures in the 90s and 100s, we're starting to see lawns are quickly turning brown. Trees are beginning to show damage.

To alleviate this situation, some sort of tropical disturbance is needed. Scattered thunderstorms may provide temporary local relief, but several inches of rain are needed over several days to give drought relief.

Add corn, peanuts and even cotton to the list of crops suffering from little rain lately throughout Georgia and especially in southwest Georgia.

With little rain there and across the state causing a drop in supply, the ultimate effect to consumers could be higher prices.

One director from a University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension office stated, "A few showers are not going to help it any. Just as the drought has stalled, Bermuda hay growth statewide and locally in counties all over the state, corn, peanut and cotton crops are feeling the same effect.

The hay and grass are giving out. Some farmers are having to sell their cattle due to feed shortages. Some farmers have even decided to wait on planting their crops, hoping for better soil conditions, but the planting window for any new peanuts is quickly nearing an end.

"A huge chunk of the United States peanut production is in Georgia, and it (the drought) is a big impact on the industry," he said.

The May 27 crop condition report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that in Georgia, 30 percent of the peanut crop is in poor or very poor condition. Fifty-one percent is in fair condition, and only 19 percent is in good condition.

Forty-six percent of the corn crop is in poor or worse shape; 26 percent is in fair shape; 26 percent is in good shape, and 2 percent is considered excellent.

Forty-four percent of cotton in the state is in poor or worse shape; 38 percent is in fair con- dition, and 18 percent is in good shape, the report states.

A number of farmers stated that here in Miller County, we are very fortunate to have many acres irrigated, but the cost of fuel as it continues to rise will soon eat well into any profits,if there are any.

"We need to ask Him who sends the rains to break this drought. Irrigation is good, but a good God sent rain is worth much, much more."

For the next several months, Georgia's best chance for widespread drought relief will be tropical disturbances. However, the tropics usually don't become active until late summer.

For current Georgia drought information, go to the Web site www.georgiadrought.org. Weather information is available at the University of Georgia automated weather station network Web site www.georgiaweather. net.

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