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Irene unlikely to impact Georgia's drought

6:20 PM, Aug 22, 2011   |    comments
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This field in Bullock county in south Georgia is more dirt than cotton.

ATLANTA -- Even if Hurricane Irene brings moisture to areas of Georgia desperate for rain, it is unlikely the storm will put much of a dent in the state's deepening drought.

In Bullock County in southeast Georgia, farmer Lee Cromley walks through a field that is more hot dry dirt than cotton plants.

"It is as dry for this time of year as we've ever seen from the standpoint of trying to get a stand of cotton," said Cromley.

Hurricane Irene has dumped enough rain to cause street flooding in Antigua, the British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

The latest path projects that Irene is unlikely to impact the Georgia coast.

"Even if Irene was to come up the coast, the fact we would be on the left side of the hurricane would mean we probably still wouldn't receive a tremendous amount of rainfall from it," said state climatologist David Stooksbury.

Peanut farmers are among those hoping desperately that Irene will bring them some relief. Don Koehler, Director of the Georgia Peanut Commission said much of this year's crop was planted in marginal conditions. Without substantial rains, Georgia could produce its smallest peanut crop in three decades.

"A lot of our farmers are worried that they're running out of time," said Koehler.

Some areas of south Georgia are facing a rain deficit of up to 14 inches.

Stooksbury said one tropical system won't be enough to end the drought.

"A three to five inch rain would bring some temporary relief," said Stooksbury. "But if we don't have more storms following that, in a week or so we'll be back to where we were."

Stooksbury said with temperatures in the 90's, any rain that falls evaporates at a rate of a third to a quarter inch a day.

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