Originally created 09/19/00

Gordon dribbles on area

Gordon was DOA in Augusta.

The former hurricane, which lost even tropical storm status by the time it squished its way into the area, dropped a paltry amount of rain and was expected to dribble away to nothing by midnight Monday.

By early evening, Augusta had received less than an inch of rain - about nine-tenths of a inch - and that had fallen in a slow, steady drizzle that squelched problems of flash-flooding. In sharp contrast, areas of coastal South Carolina had up to 10 inches of rain from Gordon, which sloshed ashore along Florida's Gulf Coast late Sunday, heading north-northeast. The storm quickly weakened and fell apart over land, getting caught up in a frontal system.

Forecasts predict a sunny day in Augusta today, with highs in the mid-80s, once the clouds break and the sun appears.

David Stooksbury, a state climatologist in Athens, said Gordon had a minimal effect on Georgia. Stream flows remain at record low levels. Most of the state needs about 10 inches of rain to end the drought, said Mr. Stooksbury, a University of Georgia engineering professor.

"We never really felt there was going to be much of a (Gordon) problem in Georgia," he said. "But we're just past the midpoint of the tropical storm season. It's very active, so we need to continue to keep an eye on activity in the tropics."

In its final report on the storm, the National Weather Service said Gordon's center was about 40 miles northwest of Brunswick, moving north-northeast at about 13 mph. School officials in Savannah and Brunswick canceled classes Monday as a precaution, but local emergency management authorities said the storm caused few problems.

"Hurricane Gordon, Tropical Storm Gordon, now Tropical Depression Gordon has been a nonevent for us," said Dennis Jones, deputy emergency management director for Chatham County. "We've had absolutely no wind damage from this event."

Ed Abel, emergency management director for Glynn County, said his coastal county had up to 1´ inches of rain and winds of 25 to 30 mph.

"Generally speaking, we've not gotten any heavy stuff," Mr. Abel said. "The winds were not sustained enough to cause damage."

Parts of South Carolina took a heavier beating and saw some flooding. Heavy rain started falling in the Charleston area at about midnight Sunday. But by early afternoon Monday, skies were clear, the sun was bright and a gentle breeze blew in from the Atlantic Ocean. The tropical storm and flash-flood warnings that had been posted along the coast were lowered.

Small craft advisories for coastal waters and high wind advisories for area lakes remained in effect.

Radar estimates indicated 5 inches of rain fell in Mount Pleasant, just east of Charleston, and between 8 and 10 inches fell around McClellanville, in northern Charleston County, said Kevin Woodworth, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Downtown Charleston, by comparison, received just less than 2 inches, he said.

"Unfortunately, the area that got the worst rain got heavy rains just two weeks ago," he said, noting a storm dumped between 3 and 6 inches on the northern coast earlier this month.

Farther up the coast in Georgetown, Gordon brought more than 7 inches of rain, according to an unofficial gauge at the county emergency preparedness office.

"The sun is out right now, but it rained pretty much all night," said Patricia Byrd, an emergency preparedness worker. She said the rain flooded streets, including U.S. Highway 17 north of town, and forced several families from their homes.

There were reports that as many as 30 people were affected, but only two people were staying at a Red Cross shelter at a church, said Robert Allison, the shelter manager. He said others might be staying with friends or neighbors.

Motorists sloshed across the Cooper River bridges linking Mount Pleasant and Charleston during the morning rush hour, their red taillights dim against sheets of rain. Even after the storm moved on, water gathered in pools on streets on the Charleston side - a result of the earlier downpour and a midday high tide.

The storm left 2 feet of water in the parking lot of the Inlet Square Mall south of Myrtle Beach, and some vehicles were moved by the high water, the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C., reported. There was scattered street flooding elsewhere in the area.

Although it doused the coast, Gordon brought little relief for inland areas of South Carolina parched by drought. Most rainfall amounts in the Midlands were less than a quarter of an inch, and the rain was not expected to raise the low levels of area rivers and creeks, according to the National Weather Service in Columbia.

There was some concern in southwest Georgia about the effect of the rain on two key row crops: peanuts and cotton. After a third summer of drought, farmers are in the midst of the peanut harvest, and they have just started the cotton harvest. Cotton and peanuts are Georgia's top two row crops, with a combined value of about $900 million annually.

Too much rain destroys peanuts and reduces the quality of cotton.

"You could lose a lot of peanuts in the ground right now," said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission. "It depends on how much rain we get. If it moves out and we get some sunny weather, then it may not be a major loss on peanuts. But it's still going to mean some loss."

Richey Seaton, executive director of the Georgia Cotton Commission, said he didn't think the rain or wind had caused significant damage. High winds can blow the lint out of cotton bolls.

"I'm sure we're going to have some quality loss, but thankfully I don't think we're going to have any appreciable yield loss," Seaton said.

Tommy Irvin, Georgia's agriculture commissioner, said Gordon probably caused some minor crop damage.

"I think we can be thankful that the wind velocity didn't get as bad as we anticipated," he said. "I hope it moves right on through and we get some sunshine behind it."

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223.


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