Georgia’s withering 2012 drought is officially over, according to monitoring maps released Thursday, but the few remaining dry areas include Richmond and Columbia counties.
The year began with 98 percent of the state classified as abnormally dry to having extreme, or even exceptional, drought.
After steady improvement during the first quarter, including heavy rains that raised Thurmond Lake more than 10 feet, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s drought monitor for Georgia shows the state is now 92 percent drought-free.
South Carolina officials issued similar news this week, announcing that the drought had been downgraded from “moderate” to no drought for 22 counties; and from “incipient” to no drought in the rest.
Chris Bickley, a member of South Carolina’s drought response committee, said the panel usually avoids downgrading two levels, but “there was consistent and overwhelming support from all the drought indicators combined with a high probability for above-normal precipitation in the upcoming weeks.”
Though conditions are much improved over a year ago, the advocacy group Friends of the Savannah River Basin warned in its recent newsletter that the region still has some catching up to do.
“The last four or so months of more normal rains have reduced but not totally eliminated the 12-month rainfall deficits,” wrote Harry Shelley, the group’s facilitator.
Long-term forecasts hint at continued improvements, with projections that indicate equal chances for
normal precipitation until the August-to-October period.
“This is much more positive than we have seen in some time,” Shelley said.