Published on 11/09/01

Threat of Drought-fueled Wildfires High

Keetch-Byram Drought Index
As of Nov. 8, 2001, 1 p.m. EST

The deepening drought in Georgia is creating serious wildfire problems, record low stream flows and low reservoir and groundwater levels.

With drought conditions worsening across Georgia during the first week of November, the wildfire danger statewide is rated high to extreme, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Coupled with a killing freeze, very low relative humidity and freshly fallen leaves, the drought has made Georgia very susceptible to wildfires.

Most wildfires are caused by careless burning of debris such as leaves and household garbage. Others are caused by farm machine use, such as mowing. Anyone who uses Georgia's outdoors needs to be mindful of fire hazards from other sources, too, such as cigarettes, motorized vehicles, chainsaws and other powered tools -- any spark-producing activities.

Soil Moisture Short

Across Georgia during the first week of November, rain was minimal and soil moisture loss around one-half inch. Soil moisture is reported to be short to very short in 87 percent of the state's soils, according the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service. This follows an extremely dry three months.

Analysis from the National Climatic Data Center shows that October 2001 was Georgia's 15th driest October in 107 years. August-through-October 2001 was the state's 11th driest August-through-October on record.

Record low stream flows are reported on the middle and lower Flint River, the lower Oconee, the upper Altamaha and Broad River. Streams south of the mountains are near record low flows.

Groundwater levels remain low across south Georgia. Several locations are at or near record low levels.

No Relief in Near Future

No large-scale rain event is expected in the near future, so drought conditions will continue to worsen through the middle of the month. Water conservation measures are desirable.

The long-lead outlook for winter is not clear. Current National Weather Service predictions are for equal chances of below-normal, near-normal and above-normal winter precipitation.

Other sources of Georgia drought information:

Fire Danger Rating
As of Nov. 8, 2001, 2:30 p.m. EST

David Emory Stooksbury is associate professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.