Below-normal rain across most of Georgia during April aggravated the two-year drought. Most places had less than half of their normal rain during the month. The major exceptions were in the extreme northwest and along the Florida border.
Among major Geogia cities, Athens had 43 percent of normal, Atlanta 62 percent, Augusta 34 percent, Columbus 31 percent and Macon 20 percent. Savannah was the only major city with near-normal rains in April. It received 94 percent of its normal rainfall.
Some places along the Florida line had heavy rains and flooding in the last week of April. Locations with heavy rain last week include Alma (2.20 inches), Attapulgus (2.06), Dixie (6.66) and Valdosta (4.02).
Rain Below Normal Statewide
For the year, total rain is below normal across the entire state. At the end of April, below-normal amounts include Athens at 6.97 inches, Atlanta at 7.17, Augusta 4.94, Columbus 5.71, Macon 6.10 and Savannah 2.20.
Stream flows in the southern two-thirds of the state are near record-low flows for the date.
On May 1, daily record low flows were found on the Chattahoochee River near Whitesburg, the Flint River near Culloden and at Newton and the Ocmulgee River at Jackson and Macon.
Extremely low flows were found on the Altamaha River at Doctortown, the Oconee River at Dublin and the Savannah River at Augusta.
Soil-moisture conditions are expected to worsen as Georgia enters late spring. With rigorous plant growth and high temperatures routinely in the 80s, evaporation and plants' water use (transpiration) will quickly exhaust any soil-moisture reserve without timely rains.
Conditions Expected to Worsen
Even with normal weather, Georgia's soils normally lose moisture during May. The Climate Prediction Center forecasts an increased probability of above-normal temperatures in May. So, soil-moisture loss is expected to be above normal.
The rain outlook from CPC is for equal chances of below-normal, normal and above-normal rain for May.
Unless there is a major change in the weather pattern, the drought will probably continue through the summer. Even with normal rain, the soils normally dry out during the summer, and plants must depend on soil-moisture reserves built up during the winter.
Across most of Georgia, there was minimal soil moisture recharge during the past winter. Thus, there is little soil-moisture reserve to support plant growth.
(David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)