July 19, 2008

Steady Rainfall AIDS Isles

By Anna Ferguson, The Brunswick News, Ga.

Jul. 19--Gray clouds and scattered rain hung over the Golden Isles this week, putting a damper on beach-going vacation plans but easing significantly the area's dry conditions.

Between a 24-hour period beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday and ending 8 a.m. Friday, the National Weather Service in Jacksonville reported .24 inches of rain in the Brunswick-St. Simons Island region. An additional .20 inches was measured during the next six hours, ending at 2 p.m. Friday, according to the weather service's most recent figures taken from McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport, on St. Simons Island.

More rain was expected to fall throughout the weekend.

While this collection of moisture may not be the ultimate relief the state needs to repair drought conditions, Pam Knox, assistant state climatologist, said she is optimistic that it is a good start, especially for the Golden Isles.

Residents from Savannah, at the northern tip of Georgia's coastline, to St. Marys, at the southern end, can count themselves lucky, Knox said. Conditions along the coast are only abnormally dry or not even registering drought status.

By contrast, the northern part of the state remains in extreme drought conditions, and the western part of Georgia is categorized as severe drought.

"Coastal Georgia hasn't had nearly as bad a drought as the rest of the state," Knox said. "This recent rain was pretty spotty, but it will keep the area from drying out, and it may slightly improve the edges of the coast.

"It should improve local conditions, but it probably won't do much as far as widespread relief."

Forests and woodlands on the coast are reaping great benefits from the rains, said Alan Dozier, chief of forest protection for the Georgia Forestry Commission. Forests need at least a slight weekly rain to keep the soil and forest fuel, such as twigs, leaves and branches, moist to prevent fires, and the recent showers have gone a long way in keeping things damp.

The showers didn't come soon enough to prevent the 2,500-acre forest fire on Cumberland Island earlier this month, but Dozier said the rain should be enough to stave off other fire outbreaks for at least a few weeks.

"I'm real proud of the rain we've been getting," Dozier said, noting that recent showers have made the drought conditions that swept through the Okefenokee Swamp last summer a distant memory. "It's nothing like last year. This year seems to be shaping up OK, from Savannah on over to Waycross."


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