By David Pendered
Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday urged Georgians to pray for rain as he restricted outdoor use of water across most of northwest Georgia, while active forest fires blaze across 27,027 acres in Georgia’s mountains.
“We urge these communities to act accordingly, use good judgment and avoid outdoor burning and watering while we continue to work with the [Georgia Environmental Protection Division] and pray for rain across the state,” Deal said in a statement.
Deal was referring to communities located in the 52 counties where on Thursday he declared a Level 2 Drought Response. The area covers all of metro Atlanta. It stretches along the Alabama border south to Columbus, east to Athens and across all but two counties in north Georgia. The exceptions are Towns and Rabun counties.
Evidently, Deal and EPD acted on a long-range weather forecast issued Thursday by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. The forecast calls for a dry winter with above normal temperatures.
“Today’s declaration is driven by an extended period of little or no rain and increasing dryness in the impacted areas,” said Richard Dunn, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. “What’s more, there is little hope for relief as weather forecasters expect an unusually warm, dry winter across most of the state.”
Exceptional drought conditions now cover 22.25 percent of Georgia, all of it in northwest Georgia and up to the outskirts of metro Atlanta. Three months ago, no extreme drought condition existed in the state.
Metro Atlanta is within the 52 percent of Georgia that’s in extreme drought conditions. Three months ago 30 percent of the state was in extreme drought.
Deal’s statement said this week marks the 24th week of continuous severe drought in northwest Georgia, the 22nd week for the metro Atlanta area, the 21st week in northeastern parts of the state and the 15th week in central Georgia.
The Level 2 Drought Response means that outdoor watering is permitted two days a week. Properties with even-numbered addresses and no addresses may water on Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. Properties with odd-numbered addresses may water Thursdays and Sundays between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. An EPD fact sheet outlines the regulations.
Prohibited outdoor water uses include:
- Washing hard surfaces such as streets and sidewalks;
- Water for ornamental purposes, such as fountains;
- The use of fire hydrants, except for firefighting and public safety;
- Non-commercial washing of vehicles;
- Non-commercial pressure washing;
- Fundraising car washes.
The ban does not apply to personal food gardens, newly planted plants, hand-watered plants, and private wells, according to EPD.
“I would like to remind Georgians that there are specific guidelines and prohibitions to follow during a Level 1 and Level 2 Drought Response,” Deal said.
The Level 1 Drought Response covers an additional 58 counties. It spans from the Level 1 region southeast to Augusta and diagonally across the state southwest through Albany to the Florida border.
According to the statement:
“Those counties assigned a Level 2 Drought Response are: Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Butts, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Athens-Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dade, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fannin, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Fulton, Gilmer, Gordon, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Harris, Heard, Henry, Jackson, Lamar, Lumpkin, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Murray, Newton, Oconee, Paulding, Pickens, Pike, Polk, Rockdale, Spalding, Troup, Union, Upson, Walker, Walton, White and Whitfield.
“The additional counties assigned a Level 1 Drought Response are: Baker, Baldwin, Bibb, Bleckley, Calhoun, Chattahoochee, Clay, Columbia, Crawford, Crisp, Decatur, Dooly, Dougherty, Early, Elbert, Franklin, Glascock, Greene, Hancock, Hart, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Jones, Laurens, Lee, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, Marion, McDuffie, Miller, Mitchell, Muscogee, Oglethorpe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Quitman, Rabun, Randolph, Richmond, Schley, Seminole, Stephens, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taliaferro, Taylor, Terrell, Towns, Twiggs, Warren, Washington, Webster, Wilkes and Wilkinson.”
During a drought in 2007, then Gov. Sonny Perdue convened a prayer vigil on the grounds of the state Capitol to ask for rain.
“We’ve come together here simply for one reason and one reason only: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm,” Perdue said after a choir provided a hymn, according to a report by nbcnews.com. “It’s time to appeal to Him who can and will make a difference.”