Published on 06/04/09

May was wet, windy month in Georgia

By Pam Knox
University of Georgia

May in Georgia was very wet. Temperatures were normal to 2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. There were reports of hail or strong winds somewhere in Georgia on at least 16 days.

The monthly average temperature in Atlanta was 70.2 degrees (.4 degrees above normal); in Athens 70.5 degrees (1.4 degrees above normal); Columbus 72.3 degrees (normal); Macon 72.4 degrees (1.4 degrees above normal); Savannah 74.2 degrees (1.4 degrees above normal); Brunswick 74.9 degrees (1.2 degrees above normal); Alma 73.8 degrees (normal); and in Augusta 72.2 degrees (1.7 degrees above normal). Several record-low maximum temperatures in the 60s were recorded in Savannah, Alma and Brunswick on May 18 and 19.

Except for a band south of Atlanta and in southwest Georgia, rainfall across the state was above normal according to radar estimates. Over 10 inches of rain was observed by radar in northeast Georgia and along the coast as well as a few isolated areas in Charlton and Terrell counties.

The highest monthly total from National Weather Service reporting stations was 9.69 inches in Savannah (6.08 inches above normal). The lowest was in Athens at 3.58 inches (.28 inches below normal).

According to the NWS, Columbus received 5.10 inches (1.48 inches above normal); Macon 5.73 inches (2.75 inches above normal); Alma 8.14 inches (5.10 inches above normal); Brunswick 5.33 inches (2.64 inches above normal); and Augusta 4.38 inches (1.31 inches above normal). Several daily records of rainfall were set during the month at these stations, including 2.08 inches at Alma on May 23.

The highest one-day total rainfall from the CoCoRaHS network was 3.77 inches measured at two stations on Skidaway Island on May 22. There was also a one-day total of 3.75 inches at Waycross on May 27. The highest monthly rainfall total was 13.08 inches near Dillard in northern Rabun County. Several other monthly rainfall amounts of over 10 inches were reported at Rabun Gap as well as near Savannah. The Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network station in Rabun County reported 10.43 inches for May.

The rainy conditions in April and May contributed to problems with mosquitoes in south Georgia. Health authorities in Lowndes County reported a health emergency on May 6. Prior to the wet conditions about nine mosquitoes per trap were found in the county. After the onset of wet conditions, traps averaged 786 mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can act as carriers for multiple illnesses, including the West Nile virus.

No tornadoes were reported. The strongest storms occurred on May 2 and 3 with the passage of a strong derecho through north and middle Georgia. A derecho is a bow-shaped line of strong thunderstorms that move at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and can cause significant damage from straight-line winds. Numerous trees were reported down with the high winds observed throughout the month.

The drought conditions of the past few years may have contributed to the number of trees that were weakened and sustained damage. Some damage to vegetable crops was noted, and three center-pivot irrigation systems in central Georgia were destroyed by high winds and hail during the third week of May.

During the first of the month, farmers had trouble doing field work and planting due to dry conditions. After the first week, they had difficulty doing field work due to heavy rains. Powdery mildew and other plant diseases and the washing of fertilizer out of the fields were reported by a number of observers in the Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin this month. Some farmers reported hay rotting in the fields and small grains sprouting from the heads as well as drowned tobacco plants.

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