Published Thursday, December 27, 2012
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The rains that fell on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and early Wednesday dropped between 3.5 to 4 inches of rain on most of Coweta County, according to the National Weather Service.
The rain brings the total for December to 5.47 inches, as measured by The Newnan Times-Herald weather station in downtown Newnan.
That’s a lot of rain for December — 1.57 inches above the 30-year “average.”
It’s the second wettest December in at least 17 years. Only December 2009, at 9.10 inches, was wetter.
The metro Atlanta area only received a mere 1.67 inches in November. In October, it was 1.83 inches, and in September, just 1.37 inches, according to the weather service’s “rainfall scorecard.”
The Christmas rain wasn’t enough to put much of a dent in the Atlanta area’s rainfall deficit — which currently stands at 13.3 inches below normal for the year.
But “every little bit helps,” said Vaughn Smith, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City. “This isn’t going to help that much but... we have to start somewhere to get back to normal.”
Despite the heavy rains, there was only one report of minor flooding, and that was in Alpharetta, where there are creeks and streams that are really prone to flash flooding, according to Smith.
The Chattahoochee River at Whitesburg is expected to rise 10 feet from the rain, but it will still be below flood stage because the river flow was so low to start with.
The river gauge was reading 3.5 feet at 3 p.m. on Monday. By 3 p.m. Wednesday, the level was 9.94 feet. The river was predicted to crest at 13.6 feet overnight Wednesday. That’s just shy of the flood level of 15 feet.
It is within the “action level” of 13 feet, however.
The rain is expected to have a beneficial effect on Newnan Utilities’ water reservoirs.
Motorists along Sewell and Corinth roads may have noticed the lakes, which appear nearly empty.
Things aren’t as bad as they look, however. “The lakes you can see from Corinth and Sewell roads are at a higher elevation than the one that sits at the plant. Therefore, those two lakes have the lowest levels,” said Dennis McEntire, Newnan Utilities general manager.
“While they look bad, they are designed to do exactly what they are doing: supplying us water when the creeks are dry,” McEntire said. “It has been pretty remarkable to watch the lakes work through the years. The engineering that was put into the design of our reservoirs over the past 75 - 85 years has proven over and over to be accurate,” he said.
As of Dec. 14, the total reservoir system was at 60 percent capacity.
“That is actually pretty healthy for this time of year,” McEntire said.
The heavy rains will allow Newnan Utilities to pump out of the area streams for several weeks, McEntire said. The reservoirs are fed by the streams, but water can’t be pumped if stream flows are below certain levels.
“We should have no problem having our lakes full again by early to mid-February,” McEntire said.
The B.T. Brown Reservoir, operated by the Coweta Water and Sewerage Authority, is just a few inches from full. The level was at 24.6 feet Wednesday afternoon, with 25 feet being full pool.
As of last week, nearly all of Coweta was considered to be in “exceptional drought,” the worst level according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A swath of extreme dryness runs from Troup County through Coweta and up to most of Douglas and South Fulton counties and half of Fayette. Another area of exceptional drought runs through central Georgia.
New drought maps will be released today, but they are based on rainfalls before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Most of the middle part of the state, with some areas farther north and south, is in extreme drought, with most of the rest of the state in severe drought.