published Monday, December 5th, 2011

Chunk of Georgia goes missing?

It's not often that hundreds of square miles of a state's land mass go missing.

Well, that's not exactly true. Geographers say that improving technology allows for better estimates of states' land masses.

That appears to explain the shrinkage of our neighboring states to the south, Georgia and Alabama -- and the slight increase in Tennessee's land area.

Census data from 2010 show that Georgia's land area is now about 400 square miles smaller than it was back in 2000. That's bigger than the city of Dallas! Alabama shrank by almost 100 square miles, and Tennessee grew by 17 square miles.

Evidently, enhanced technology allowed the U.S. Geological Survey to gauge the sizes of rivers and lakes better than it could previously. That generated the new land area estimates.

But not to fear: When land and water areas are taken together, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are all still within a square mile of their 2000 estimates.

Lawmakers made light of the new size estimates for their states.

"I've always heard that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog," said Georgia Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette. "[Georgia's] official size may be a little smaller, but Georgia's still a great place to live."

Asked about Georgia's shrinkage, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, pondered, "Did we throw ourselves in the dryer or something?"

They can take some comfort from one compelling statistic, though: Georgia still has the biggest land area of any state east of the Mississippi River.

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