June 16th, 2008 13:26 EST
Extreme drought In Northeast Georgia: 2012?
Extreme drought, the kind seen only once every 50 years or so, has returned to northeast Georgia.
State climatologist David Stooksbury upgraded 18 counties to the new status Wednesday, including Hall, Lumpkin, Rabun and Clarke.
Most of metro Atlanta`s drought is still classified as severe, which happens about every 20 years.
That`s an improvement over this time last year, when the metro region was in an extreme drought based on soil moisture, stream flows and rainfall.
Many rivers in northeast Georgia are flowing at or near record lows, Stooksbury reported, with record lows being set on the Chattooga River near Clayton and the Broad River east of Athens.
This month, only 26 percent of the normal amount of water is flowing into Lake Lanier from its rivers and streams, including the Chattahoochee River. The lake is metro Atlanta`s main water source.
This week`s high temperatures and low stream flows apparently led to a fish kill in a tributary of the Chattahoochee River near Willeo Road in Roswell.
In Gainesville, on the banks of Lanier in Hall County, city employees have been asked to report people who are violating the outdoor watering restrictions while they`re out and about on other business.
Several people already have been hit with $50 fines for first offenses in recent weeks, said Brian Wiley, the city`s environmental monitoring coordinator. The next time, the fine will be $200 and their water could be cut off.
Wiley said the main complaint he`s heard lately is from homeowners frustrated they can`t use their expensive irrigation systems. Under state law, they are only allowed to use a garden hose to water existing landscapes and then only 25 minutes midnight to 10 a.m. on three days a week, based on the odd-even schedule.
Stooksbury said drought conditions also are intensifying in south-central and southwest Georgia.