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Potential flood risk abnormally high in Georgia

By David Emory Stooksbury
University of Georgia

The very wet summer of 2005 has caused the risk of flooding to be usually high across Georgia.

Soil moisture and stream flows are already very high for the middle of August. Most reservoirs and ponds are at or near the summer full pool.

Heavy rainfall can lead to rapid flooding, as there is minimal storage capacity left in the soils, rivers and reservoirs.

A special concern is the potential impact of a widespread rain event associated with tropical weather. Localized flooding associated with individual thunderstorm complexes is also more likely this summer.

The elevated flood risk is expected to remain for the foreseeable future.

Insurance

Most insurance policies for homes and businesses don't cover losses caused by flooding. An additional policy is required.

Information about the federal National Flood Insurance Program may be found at 001B www.fema.gov/fima/nfip.shtm 3150 . It takes 30 days for a new policy to start, so it's important to start the program before flooding is forecast.

Another problem associated with wet soils is falling trees. Trees with poor roots due to disease, damage or poor growth are more likely to fall over. Trees will rotten trunks and limbs are also more like to cause damage.

Since it's very hard to determine the health of a tree's roots, trunk and branches by simple inspection, it's best to have a certified arborist inspect trees.

Soaked soils

Soil moisture is extremely high for August. It's at the 99th percentile north and west of a Valdosta-to-Macon-to-Lincolnton line and south and east of a Columbus-to-Carrolton-to-Blairsville line. This means that in 99 of 100 years, we would expect soils to be drier than they are now.

For the remainder of the state, soil moisture is generally greater than the 90th percentile, except in the extreme northwest corner. At the 90th percentile, we would expect the soils to be drier in 90 of 100 years than they are now.

Streams and rivers across Georgia are extremely high for August.

On Aug. 10, daily record flows were recorded on the Oconee River near Athens, Apalachee River near Bostwick, Broad River near Bell, Little River near Washington, Alcovy River near Covington, Ocmulgee River from Jackson to Macon and Spring Creek near Iron City.

Most of the other major rivers in the state are at or above the 90th percentile in flow for the middle of August.

Tropical threats

Because of the increased threat of flooding, Georgians need to monitor the development of tropical systems over the next several months.

The best way to keep updated about weather conditions and weather warnings is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio. NOAA weather radios are available at most stores that sell electronics.

Recent rainfall information is available from the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network (www.georgiaweather.net) of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

More information on preparing for a flood and recovery can be found at http://interests.caes.uga.edu/disaster/preparation/articles.htm and http://interests.caes.uga.edu/disaster/recovery/articles.htm.

(David Emory Stooksbury is the state climatologist and a professor of engineering and atmospheric sciences in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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