Published on 05/06/09

Volatile weather month smacks Georgia

By Pam Knox
University of Georgia

April hit Georgia with almost every weather punch, including floods, hail, high winds, tornadoes and even two earthquakes.

Except for a few isolated areas in far north-central counties, rainfall across the state was above normal. More than 10 inches of rain was observed by radar in southeast and south-central Georgia, with some isolated unofficial reports in the U.S. Department of Agriculture weekly crop bulletin listing over 20 inches.

The highest official monthly total from the National Weather Service was 7.30 inches in Alma (4.14 inches above normal). The lowest total was in Augusta at 4.33 inches (1.39 inches above normal).

Atlanta received 5.18 inches (1.56 inches above normal), Athens 4.47 inches (1.12 inches above normal), Columbus 6.53 inches (2.69 inches above normal), Macon inches 5.66 (2.52 inches above normal), Savannah 6.97 inches (3.65 inches above normal) and Brunswick 5.83 inches (3.03 above normal). Many daily records were set during the month at these stations, including 3.66 inches at Savannah on April 2.

The highest one-day total rainfall from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network was 6.53 inches near Baxley on the morning of April 3. There were also one-day totals in excess of six inches at Woodbine with 6.25 inches on April 1 and Moultrie with 6.04 inches on April.

Rainfall and flooding closed schools near Tifton in south Georgia for two days early in the month. Major and near-record flooding occurred along several rivers in the area. Over 80 buildings were impacted by the flooding, including 62 owner-occupied homes and 20 rentals. Of these, 20 received minor damage, 44 had major damage, and 18 mobile homes were completely destroyed.

In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 60.7 degrees (.9 degree below normal), in Athens 61 degrees (.1 degree above normal), Columbus 62.8 degrees (1.4 degrees below normal), Macon 62.6 degrees (.1 degree below normal), Savannah 65 degrees (.3 degrees below normal), Brunswick 67.3 degrees (.9 degree above normal), Alma 64.4 degrees (2.3 degrees below normal) and Augusta 62 degrees (.4 degree below normal). A record low of 32 degrees for the date was tied in Columbus on April 8.

There were numerous severe weather events over the month, including over 30 preliminary reports of tornadoes. This is the most tornadoes in April in Georgia for a decade.

Hail or high winds were observed somewhere in the state on at least 10 days, including a report of hail covering the ground in Elberton on April 14. Golf-ball-sized hail was reported at Turner Field in Atlanta on April 23.

Tornadoes were reported April 5 in south Georgia, April 10 throughout the northern half of the state, April 13 in south Georgia, and near Atlanta and Columbus on April 19. One person was killed by a drought-stressed fallen tree near Buckhead in Atlanta on April 13, and more than 250,000 people were without power during the storms.

One person was reported injured in Hancock County on April 10. Two people were reported injured near Woodstock near the Cobb County and Cherokee County border on April 19. Lightning caused a number of building fires on April 24 in and around Atlanta and caused the temporary evacuation of the control tower at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport, resulting in delays in arrivals and departures.

Because of the heavy rains this month, farmers had a difficult time working in the fields. Many fields of corn had to be replanted due to soggy conditions. High winds and hail damaged peach and pecan trees. Mild frost damaged grapes, strawberries and blueberries the week ending on April 13.

Two small earthquakes in Hancock and Baldwin counties on April 4 measured 3.1 and 2.2 on the Richter scale and were felt throughout the area. They could have been caused by shifting ground due to very wet soil.

Pam Knox is the director of the UGA Weather Network and serves as an agricultural climatologist with the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.