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Gov. Deal declares drought response

LaGRANGE – The drought just keeps getting worse in Georgia.

Following the official declaration of drought and a ban on fireworks Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal called for a drought response in counties across the state which would tighten regulations regarding water usage.

“I have approved a Level 2 Drought Response designation for 52 counties and a Level 1 designation for an additional 58 counties,” Deal said on his Twitter account on Thursday. The level 2 response includes Troup County.

During a level 2 drought response, residents are asked to limit watering activity to two days a week.  Even numbered addresses and properties without addresses are asked to water on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.  Odd numbered addresses are permitted to water on Thursdays and Sundays between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m.

“Today’s declaration is driven by an extended period of little or no rain and increasing dryness in the impacted areas,” said state Environmental Protection Division Director Richard Dunn in a press release on Thursday. “What’s more, there is little hope for relief as weather forecasters expect an unusually warm, dry winter across most of the state.”

Certain activities are now prohibited because of the drought level such as water for ornamental purposes such as fountains, noncommercial pressure washing, non-commercial car washing, washing hard surfaces such as streets and sidewalks, and use of fire hydrants for anything besides public safety, but the lack of rain is going to have a major impact on far more than just local sprinklers.

“It means that if we don’t get some rain, the lake levels are going to keep going down,” said Pat Robbins of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  “We are getting close to record lows on all the Chattahoochee Valley and Apalachicola river systems.”

According to the National Weather Service, chances of rain are currently low for the state overall and Troup County specifically, and now that the La Nina weather system has been officially announced, chances for enough rain to get counties out of the drought are low.

“On Saturday, we may squeeze out a 10 percent chance (of rain for Troup County), but we’re not expecting much in the way of measurable precipitation,” said Robert Haynes from the National Weather Service in Peachtree City.

If the region does not receive adequate rain fall to recover from the drought, the next step would be for counties to begin to enter Level 3, which would mean no outdoor watering except for food gardens, athletic fields and certain businesses.

“During this prolonged period of severe drought in Georgia, we are bolstering the state’s drought response in more than 100 counties,” Deal said in a press release. “I would like to remind Georgians that there are specific guidelines and prohibitions to follow during a Level 1 and Level 2 Drought Response. We urge these communities to act accordingly, use good judgment and avoid outdoor burning and watering while we continue to work with the EPD and pray for rain across the state.”

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.