Originally created 01/24/04

Weather expert says area is drier than usual



If Augusta's weather had a theme song so far this year, it wouldn't be Rainy Night in Georgia.

Weather officials say 2004 has started off as one of the driest in many years.

"We're definitely looking at a record all-time (low) for precipitation this month," said Frank Wells, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C.

So far this month, the area has received just slightly more than a quarter inch of rain, Mr. Wells said. January normally is a wet month, bringing an average total of 4.5 inches of rainfall to the region, Mr. Wells said.

The record low for rainfall in January for Augusta, he said, is 0.75 inches, set in 1981.

A greater than 50 percent chance of rain is predicted for late tonight and Sunday, but Mr. Wells doubts that precipitation will boost the area over the record mark.

"We'd have to get a half-inch or more, and I don't know if we'll get that much," he said.

He explained that high pressure during the past 30 days has prevented rainfall in the area. He said that though temperatures have hit extreme highs - in the 70s on some days - this month, the average temperature - 45 - is about normal.

Still, with no precipitation, he gives the Augusta area a 20 percent chance at best at getting snowfall this winter.

"I don't think we'll get any this month," he said.

2003 had 8.5 inches more rainfall than normal. Mr. Wells said dry weather now doesn't mean 2004 will be a drought year, but he said the lack of rainfall this month isn't good news for farmers and landscapers, who depend on extra winter precipitation to soften the ground for the spring crop or construction projects.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.