Originally created 08/16/98

Weather service predicts cooler, wetter weather

ALBANY, Ga. -- Recent downpours and a forecast calling for cooler temperatures and normal rainfall may signal an end to a 2 1/2 -month drought that has cost Georgia farmers at least $500 million in crop losses.

"I can't say for sure whether we're out of the drought, but we're definitely in a more typical summertime pattern," said Patrick Moore, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Tallahassee, Fla.

Mr. Moore said the 90-day forecast calls for cooler temperatures and afternoon showers, bringing much-needed relief to Georgia farmers plagued by drought conditions that have charred crops.

"In May, June and the first part of July, a very extensive area of high pressure was over us, making the atmosphere very dry," Mr. Moore said. "That large area has been pushed to the West. Since then, we've had more moisture in the air and more showers."

The high-pressure area brought triple-digit temperatures and rainless skies from Georgia to Texas. The skies have been releasing generous amounts of rain over many parts of south Georgia since late July.

The drought decimated the state's dryland corn crop and left livestock producers scrambling for hay to feed their animals this winter.

The recent rains may be enough to save some peanut and cotton fields, which are fairly drought-resistant crops, but they have limits, too.

Peanuts planted after May 1 -- which account for 80 percent of the crop -- need water critically because they are producing shoots known as pegs on which the peanuts grow, said John Baldwin, a peanut specialist with the University of Georgia Extension Service.

Mr. Baldwin said some fields have received 9 inches to 13 inches of rain in the last three weeks, but others have received only scattered showers.


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