Extreme drought in Georgia 

Posted: 7:08 am Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

By Kirk Mellish

Nearly 49% of the U.S. population is now under in a drought!

In the Georgia mountains the rainfall deficit is over 20 inches. The drought in the Southeastern U.S. is in its ninth month impacting almost 24 million people. OVER 59% of Georgia is now under extreme or worse drought conditions. Less than 16% of the state is not abnormally dry.

Almost 9 million Georgia residents are now being impacted by drought. In far north Georgia many areas have only had half or less of their normal rainfall over the past 90+ days some having their driest 3-month period on record.




The cold front fell apart as it moved across the Southeast, leaving the region with another week of zero precipitation. As reported by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), hundreds (at least 212) new fires have started in the Southeast, with 30 of them classified as large wildfires (100 acres or more), and burn bans were widespread across the region.

Streams were at record and near-record low levels. Severe agricultural impacts (stock ponds drying up, winter feed being used to keep cattle alive since fall started) were widespread across the South and Southeast.

In Alabama, ponds were drying up in and around Lowndes County, and cattlemen were hauling water and using winter hay to feed cattle since late summer. As of November 22, Oneonta, Alabama, in the northeast part of the state, has gone 94 consecutive days without measurable precipitation. In Mississippi, the USDA has received reports of ponds drying up and cattle producers having to feed hay, in some cases already using up their entire hay supply for the winter months. Rye grass that was planted in the beginning of October has yet to emerge.

As described by the Georgia State Climatologist, agricultural impacts due to dry soils in Turner/Tift/Irwin/Worth/Ben Hill/Wicox/Dodge county areas have been just detrimental for peanut and cattle farmers. In Decatur County, dryland winter forage is not being attempted at this time. If there is no irrigation, the small grains have emerged and died. In Coffee County, unless irrigated, small grains for grazing are naught.

In Coweta County, hay is becoming harder to find and even irrigated areas are now suffering due to low water levels in ponds and creeks. The USDA has received reports of wells going bad and stock ponds drying up in Holmes County, Florida.

According to November 20 USDA reports, 100% of the topsoil moisture and 98% of the subsoil moisture in Alabama was rated short or very short (dry or very dry).



We are currently tied for 2nd longest dry spell officially at Hartsfield.

From the South Carolina State Climatologist, streamflows and lake levels continue to decline in the Upstate. Several stations have had the driest 90-day period (8/15-2016-11/14/2016) on record. The USDA reports that cattle producers have been selling off cows and began feeding hay mid-summer in the Upstate, and producers are reporting that they are prevented from planting winter forage due to lack of rain.

In a November 10 announcement, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan (TEMP) in response to the drought and wildfire impacts, with a Level 3 – State of Emergency in place for Tennessee. The announcement included a statement that “Approximately 302 of Tennessee’s 480 water systems are experiencing some level of drought impact, ranging from moderate to exceptional. At least three counties have requested water for residents whose wells have run completely dry of water.”

In western North Carolina, reports from the public indicate that cattle producers in Watauga and Avery Counties have been feeding their winter stores of hay for over a month. Streams, creeks, and branches have dried up, producers are having major issues with watering livestock, peoples’ wells have dried up, and local towns are implementing Stage 2 water restrictions.

According to November 13 USDA reports, topsoil moisture was short to very short across 92% of Alabama, 91% of Mississippi, 90% of Georgia, 82% of Tennessee, 79% of Louisiana, 76% of Kentucky, 60% of Arkansas, 55% of Florida, 39% of South Carolina, and 35% of North Carolina, and subsoil moisture was short or very short in 90% of Alabama and Mississippi, 85% of Georgia, 81% of Tennessee, 75% of Louisiana, 71% of Kentucky, 61% of Arkansas, and 45% of Florida.

Most of Georgia has received LESS  than 50% of normal rainfall past 3 months:


Red dots are active fires, yellow dots are past brush/wild fires since January 1st:


National forest fires and smoke plume paths:


Many counties still have fire burning bans. Brush and small forest fires are becoming common.

Many locations are on pace for the driest Fall on record (1):


Soils continue to dry out, streams and creeks and lake levels continue to drop in North and Central Georgia. Hardest hit is the Northern third of the state where ponds are dry, natural springs are dry, and wells are running dry and agriculture is being hurt.

Over 15 inches of rain is needed to wipe out the drought in parts of Metro Atlanta.Eight million Georgians now live under a drought classification.


Drought is widespread across the Southeastern United States as well as out West and in the Northeast states.





Agriculture as well as trees and other plants are suffering from the lack of water, without irrigation they are dying.

What would normally be lush green pastures are reduced to stubble. Cows don’t have enough to eat with ranchers having trouble importing expensive hay for feed and having to sell off parts of the herd prematurely to make sure they have enough feed to get through winter.

Many huge cattle drinking ponds have been bone dry for the last three months. Down the road this could increase the price of beef at the grocery store with smaller herds to go to slaughter.

Production of peanuts and cotton are also expected to be reduced by the drought.

The flow on the Chattahoochee river is low, both Lake Lanier and Allatoona are down multiple feet.

Get Daily lake level updates for Georgia here

Unfortunately, the long-term trends through January do not look favorable for any big turn around anytime soon. The NOAA/NWS winter outlook: