Published on 06/13/13

May weather delays planting by a few weeks

By Pam Knox

May was wet, cool and cloudy throughout most of the state. That wet, cool weather kept the soil too wet to plant in some areas, while fields were too dry in others.

In either case, Georgia farmers found their planting schedules delayed until the end of the month.

North Georgia was very wet, with areas north of Atlanta receiving 5 inches more than normal over the course of the month. The southwest corner of Georgia was well below normal, however, receiving 3 inches less rain than normal.

The highest monthly precipitation total reported by the National Weather Service station was 5.26 inches observed in Atlanta (1.59 inches below normal) and the lowest was the station in Augusta with 2.26 inches (0.39 inches below normal). Athens received 3.63 inches (0.63 above normal). Macon received 3.95 inches (1.23 above normal). Brunswick received 3.40 inches (1.54 above normal). Columbus received 2.86 inches (0.33 below normal). Alma received 3.02 inches (0.55 above normal). Savannah received 3.16 inches (0.08 above normal).

Minor flooding was seen mid-month in northern Georgia where soils were saturated from the heavy rain. Roads and water lines were affected in some areas, leading to “boil water” advisories in a few locations.

Drought operations on Lake Hartwell ended on May 7 as heavy rainfall in the northern part of the basin and releases from Lake Hartwell upstream raised the lake levels at Thurmond Dam above 328 feet for the first time since March 30, 2011. The last time the water at Thurmond Lake was above 328 feet for any period of time was February 2010.

The highest daily precipitation measurement reported by Community Collaborative Rain Hail Snow Network was 6.40 inches on May 19 near Flowery Branch in Hall County. An observer near Suwanee reported 5.18 inches on the same date. Most of this rain fell in less than six hours. The highest total rainfall observed in May was 14.32 inches near Cumming in Forsyth County, followed by 13.27 inches from the Flowery Branch observer.

Despite the rain, cooler weather helped to reduce the amount of severe weather Georgia saw in May. Severe weather was reported on five days; however, all but one of the reports was for scattered wind damage. A May 21 report described nickel-sized hail near Jackson in Butts County.

In Atlanta, the monthly average temperature was 68.1 degrees F (2 degrees below normal). In Athens, the average was 67.4 degrees (2.6 degrees below normal); in Columbus, the average was 71.5 degrees (1.5 degrees below normal); in Macon, it was 68.4 degrees (3.5 degrees below normal); in Savannah, it was 71.7 degrees (1.6 degrees below normal); in Augusta, it was 68.4 degrees (2.7 below normal); in Alma, it was 70.6 degrees (3.1 below normal); and in Brunswick, it was 73.0 degrees (1.5 below normal).

Atlanta set a new record low for daytime temperature with 59 degrees on May 6, breaking the old record of 62 degrees set in 1920. Columbus had a record low daytime temperature of 66 degrees on the same day, breaking the old record of 67 degrees set in 1992. Augusta set a record low temperature of 40 degrees on May 14, breaking the old record of 42 degrees set in 1997, and Savannah posted a new record low of 48 degrees on the same date, breaking the old record of 49 degrees set in 1997.

By the end of May, soil temperatures warmed enough for most planting to proceed, and soil moisture levels decreased in northern Georgia, allowing farmers to enter their fields and finish planting. The wet conditions in the north fostered lush growth of hay but caused some disease problems in small grains. Dry conditions in the south caused delays in planting due to lack of needed soil moisture.

Overall, the crops were delayed by about two to three weeks due to the spring weather across Georgia.

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

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