Receding drought hasn't helped lakes but wetter fall is possible

Concrete dock anchors sit on dry land at an abandoned cove at Thurmond Lake, which is 12.65 feet low. Forecasters say a wetter autumn is possible, because of changing weather patterns.

The swath of Georgia suffering from “exceptional” and “extreme” drought has receded in recent weeks, leaving the Augusta area wetter and greener but upstate reservoirs as dry as ever.


“If you look at the past month, the extreme areas that were over Augusta have slightly improved,” said Nyasha Dunkley, deputy state climatologist. “The August rainfall in that area certainly helped in the short term.”

Augusta recorded its second-wettest August in more than a century, with rainfall of 12.28 inches recorded at Augusta Regional Airport. September rainfall, however, is well below normal, with just 1 inch measured.

Although Augusta got short-term relief, impoundments or reservoirs along the Savannah River did not.

Lakes Thurmond and Hartwell are 12.65 and 12.19 feet low, respectively, and South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee is 14 feet below full pool, with no major rainfall in sight.

Stream flows and soil moisture – both of which combine with rainfall to affect lake levels – remain very low, Dunkley said: “The lake levels are all projected to continue to fall slowly over the next few weeks.”

October and November are traditionally dry, but the newest outlook from the National Climate Prediction Center indicates there could be more rain than usual, she said: “The modeling shows a possibility that a weak El Nino system is likely to develop, which could increase the precipitation for this area.”

Georgia Drought Map: newest updates
Savannah River lake levels