Spring across most of Georgia started cooler and drier than normal, forcing flowering plants and trees to bud a week to two weeks later than usual.
In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 50.7 degrees F (3.6 degrees below normal), in Athens 51.6 degrees (1.9 degrees below normal), Columbus 52.3 degrees (5.3 degrees below normal), Macon 52.6 degrees (3.6 degrees below normal), Savannah 55.6 degrees (3.7 degrees below normal), Brunswick 55.8 degrees (4.6 degrees below normal), Alma 54.8 degrees (6.4 degrees below normal), Valdosta 56.6 degrees (3.3 degrees below normal) and Augusta 52.8 degrees (3.1 degrees below normal). No daily temperature records were set in March.
Most of the state received at least 2 inches of rain. A few areas in north Georgia received more than 6 inches of precipitation, which included the water equivalent of snow received in the area earlier in the month.
The highest monthly total precipitation from National Weather Service reporting stations was 4.24 inches in Atlanta (1.14 inches below normal). The lowest was in Athens at 2.39 inches (2.60 below normal). Valdosta received 3.42 inches (2.01 below normal), Macon 3.49 inches (1.41 inches below normal), Brunswick 2.45 inches (1.48 inches below normal), Augusta 3.20 inches (1.41 inches below normal), Columbus 3.83 inches (1.92 inches below normal), Savannah 2.72 inches (.92 inches below normal) and Alma 2.79 inches (2.01 inches below normal).
One daily rainfall record was set at Alma, where the daily rainfall reached 2.02 inches March 11, breaking the old record of 1.24 inches set in 1968.
The highest monthly totals from Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network stations were 7.48 inches in Cherokee County, followed by three reports of more than 7 inches in Troup County. The highest one-day amount occurred in La Grange March 11, when 5.02 inches was reported by one observer. Several inches of snowfall were observed March 2 and 3 north of Interstate 20 across north Georgia, including a daily total of 5 inches in Rabun County. The snow caused minor traffic accidents and some school closings across north Georgia.
There was one tornado reported. A small tornado hit Dooly County March 12, resulting in minor tree and building damage. Hail and wind also affected the north-central region March 21 and east-central Georgia March 28, causing tree damage and minor roof damage to a barn.
During March, the drier conditions improved soil moisture levels somewhat by the end of the month, although a wet spell in mid-March slowed this progress for a few days. Cold temperatures continued to slow growth of forage, causing farmers to supplement feed at additional costs. The cold also inhibited seed germination for some crops.
(Pam Knox serves as University of Georgia Agricultural Climatologist with UGA Department of Crop and Soil Science.)
A redbud tree bursts with blooms on the University of Georgia campus in Griffin, Ga. This spring's cooler, drier start resulted in flowering trees blooming a week to two weeks later than usual.Download Image