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Vidalia onion harvest helped by dry weather as ATL starts summer with normal rainfall

By David Pendered

Metro Atlanta enters summer with no areas of abnormal dryness, though portions of the coastal area are showing signs of being dry and the level of moisture in soil is falling across the state, according to an array of state and federal reports.

vidalia onions

The harvest of a large crop of Vidalia onions has been aided by dry conditions, according to Clint Thompson at VSCNews. Credit: NRCS via Commons Wikimedia via site.extension.uga.edu

Vidalia onions have benefitted from the dry conditions in their region of southeast Georgia, according to Pam Knox’s May 25 report on her climate blog at the University of Georgia. Knox reports that most of the onion crop has been harvested. The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dated May 23, shows 95% of the onion crop has been harvested – which is right on target with the five-year average.

In good news for fans of the trademark sweet onion, Knox cites a May 13 report written by Clint Thompson at VSCNews that observes:

  • “Ironically, the lack of rain has helped producers enjoy a consistent and abundant flow of Vidalia onions this season. Fields have also produced large crops.”

In reports about other crops eagerly awaited at the grocery store or farmers market, about 60% of the blueberry crop had been harvested by the report date. Corn production is on schedule, with ears emerging and silking beginning at traditional rates. Peanut planting is slightly behind the five-year average, and the harvesting of peaches, at 13%, is nearly at the 14% average, according to the May 23 edition of the “Georgia Crop Progress and Condition Report,” produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

This is the scenario at the unofficial start of summer. The season officially begins in three weeks, on June 20. Memorial Day weekend has long marked the unofficial beginning of the nation’s summer season.

Temperatures recorded on land in North America in April have been steadily climbing since the turn of the 20th century, according to NOAA’s report on May 30. Credit: ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/

Metro Atlanta begins the season with rainfall amounts at Atlanta’s airport reported as slightly above normal for the past 90 days. About 5 inches of rain has fallen in those three months, which has helped offset a shortage of about 3 inches recorded during the previous six-month period, according to a report by the National Weather Service.

For the year at the airport, total rainfall was recorded at 51.39 inches; normal value is 50.43 inches; the departure from normal is plus-0.96 inches for 102% of normal, according to the NWS.

Forecasters have already issued their predictions for an above-average hurricane season. The storms often spread across Georgia and can reach metro Atlanta with dousing rain and tree-downing winds. Hurricane season extends from June 1 through Nov. 30.

NOAA on May 20 predicted 13 to 20 named storms, which will have winds of 39 mph or higher. Six to 10 of these named storms could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher, including three to five with winds of 111 mph or higher.

These numbers compare to the 14 named storms in an average season. Of these 14 storms, seven become hurricanes and three of these spawn winds at 111 mph or higher.

Global temperatures recorded on land in April have been steadily climbing since the turn of the 20th century, according to NOAA’s report on May 30. Credit: ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/

The May 27 report by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the Savannah area has some scattered pockets of abnormally dry conditions.

Northeast of Savannah, the coastal plains of North and South Carolina are faring even worse. Moderate drought conditions are reported from near Columbia, S.C. north into southern Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay.

Across Georgia, levels of soil moisture have dropped compared to the previous week, according to the “Georgia Crop Progress and Condition Report.” The readings show:

drought monitor 5:25:21

Abnormally dry conditions affect 2% of Georgia, according to the latest Drought Monitor report. Credit: droughtmonitor.unl.edu

Topsoil, very short or short:

  • Previous week: 15%
  • Current week: 49%.

Topsoil, adequate or surplus:

  • Previous week: 85%;
  • Current week: 51%.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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