Tropical storms are two-edged swords. They bring high winds, heavy rains and damage, but in parched areas those rains can turn a drought around.
When Tropical Storm Isaac was churning toward the Gulf Coast this week, there were expectations that when it made landfall as a hurricane, it would be close enough to soak Georgia with several inches of much needed rain. The forecast turned out to be too optimistic.
"We thought that it would park over Georgia, and we would get a few days of rain, which could have wiped out the drought," Pam Knox, an agricultural climatologist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension said. "Instead, it moved further to the west than we thought. They're getting way more than they need, and we really haven't gotten very much."
As of Tuesday, the state's drought monitor showed a little over 62 percent of Georgia as abnormally dry, with more than 52 percent in at least a moderate drought. Forty-four percent of the state was in severe drought, with 34 percent in in extreme drought and nearly 17 percent in an exceptional drought. Just under 38 percent of Georgia had no drought stress.
The worst of the drought is in the middle regions of the state. In our region, western Dougherty County, a northern edge of Baker and the counties of Calhoun, Clay, Terrell, Webster, Stewart and Quitman are in extreme drought, with Lee, Mitchell, Early and the rest of Dougherty and Baker counties in moderate to severe drought.
Some parts of the state got rain -- we had some heavy showers at times in our region -- but overall it was too little and too spotty to help. Knox noted Thursday that what relief did come was little more than a help to soil moisture while waterways stayed low.
"Every bit of rain we get is good, but it wasn't enough to really change the drought situation. ... Some areas probably got a little drought relief, but it was spotty," Knox said. "In the summer we really need about an inch a week to keep up with evaporation; and, even with the storm, some areas haven't gotten that."
Louisiana and Mississippi, on the other hand, are getting more rain than they want. Knox says there's a small chance Georgia could see more moisture from the system, but the likeliest benefit we'll experience will be cooler-than-normal temperatures from the cloud coverage it generates.
That's something, but a long, soaking rain -- sans the wind -- sure would have been nice.