Tri-state area 'abnormally dry'

Tri-state area 'abnormally dry'

August 5th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Dustin Spillers speaks with José and Deborah Garcia while their children Manuel and Griselda swim at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, Tenn. Several flocked to the dam to relax and cool off from the heat in this file photo.

Photo by Jenna Walker /Times Free Press.


• Today: Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 99. Heat index values as high as 104.

• Tonight: Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 77. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.

• Saturday: Mostly cloudy and hot, with a high near 95. A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

• Saturday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75. A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

• Sunday: Partly sunny and hot, with a high near 95. A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Source: National Weather Service

The tri-state area is "abnormally dry," according to a drought report issued Thursday.

The classification doesn't quite mean that drought has returned, only that it could be on the way, according to William Schmitz, a climatologist with the Southeast Regional Climate Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"You may be beginning a trend and that's when you need to start watching it," he said.

In Tennessee, most of Hamilton, Bradley, Marion and Polk counties were added to the abnormally dry classification Thursday. In Georgia, all of Murray, Whitfield and Catoosa counties were similarly classified, though parts of each and Walker, Dade and Chattooga counties already were on the dry list.

The past two weeks have been particularly dry, according to National Weather Service data. Only about three-quarters of an inch of rain had fallen before Wednesday night's storms, compared to the 2 inches the area normally receives in that span. Overall, however, the Scenic City is still 2.63 inches of rain ahead of the average rainfall.

"It doesn't look too bad," Schmitz said.

WRCB-TV Channel 3 meterologist Paul Barys agreed. His forecast for rain is "a little more optimistic" for the next couple of weeks.

But the area is a long way from the record-setting drought that gripped the Southeast in 2007, 2008 and 2009, Barys said.

"We are not in any type of situation like we were a few years ago," he said,

Schmitz cautioned, however, that the drought report is not solely based on rainfall. Low stream flow or groundwater reserves also could be a factor.

"It very well could be a hydrogeological issue rather than meteorological," Schmitz said.

On Thursday, flow was listed as "much below normal" at points on the Conasauga River in Whitfield County and the Oostanaula River near Resaca, Ga., but other streams in Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee were flowing normally.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service call for a 60 percent chance of storms tonight with a 30 to 40 percent chance through Monday.