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More Rainfall Over Drought Zone, But Reservoirs Still Low

August 13, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Heavy rain fell Wednesday over parts of the parched Southeast, restoring soil moisture in some areas but leaving reservoirs far below normal across the drought zone.

Weather forecasters said high temperatures would return by the weekend, following several days of relief from weeks of heat, which has killed 123 people in the South and Midwest.

Damage from the drought has been placed at $2.3 billion from Pennsylvania to Florida.

Up to 5 inches of rain fell in some spots Wednesday, including 5.02 inches at Rocky Mount, N.C., and 4.99 inches at Montezuma, Ga.

In North Carolina, the downpour boosted soil moisture to adequate levels in most of the Piedmont and coastal plain, and some areas even had surplus levels, the National Weather Service said.

Growers in those areas were advised to prepare to plant fall crops and reseed pastures.

But Joe Pelissier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Raleigh-Durham Airport, said no area of the state had made up the water deficit that characterizes a drought.

″There are some areas that had a substantial amount of rain,″ Pelissier said. ″About all you can say is that the rainfall has helped.″

Most of the state’s mountain regions, which have lagged behind the rest of the state in rainfall, received an inch or less Wednesday, said Susan Yeaman of the National Weather Service in Raleigh.

Rain still has not helped fill Georgia’s lakes, said Atlanta meteorologist Max Blood.

″The ground is so dry it needs saturation before runoff occurs,″ Blood said. ″So far at the lakes there has been no significant improvement at all.″

Even with careful conservation, the water level at Lake Lanier in north Georgia was expected to drop to 1,045 feet above sea level, nearly 8 feet blow the previous record low of 1,052.76 feet during the drought of 1981.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Reporting Service estimated that Georgia’s corn harvest this year would be 43.8 million bushels, down from 1985′s 81.9 million.

Similar predictions were made in Maryland, where the USDA estimated that the corn harvest would drop by 40 percent from last year, and in South Carolina, where the state Agricultural Statistics Service said corn production, should be 22 million bushels, down 53 percent from last year.

The Tennessee Agricultural Statistics Service said grain sorghum yields would be down 76 percent and hay 50 percent.

In Washington, a delegation of South Carolina farmers urged the Reagan administration and Congress to speed up drought aid, including the use of government-owned surpluses to help stricken producers.

Harry S. Bell, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, and other state Farm Bureau leaders asked Agriculture Secretary Richard E. Lyng on Wednesday to ″use the perogatives which he has and give us the assistance which we so desperately need.″

Steps announced by President Reagan to assist farmers have included creation of an interagency task force to expedite the delivery of drought aid ranging from feed grains to loans.

Lyng, meanwhile, named 12 drought-stricken counties in northern Florida disaster areas, making farmers eligible for low-interest loans and other relief. Similar declarations have been made in several other states.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it had expanded its ″Hay Hotline″ to include national toll-free service, so that callers anywhere in the country can make a free call to donate hay or transportation.

Thursday’s forecast called for temperatures in the mid-90s from Florida across the Gulf Coast.

Atlanta’s high Thursday was only 80 degrees, its third consecutive day below 90 degrees. Earlier, the state had a record 38-straight days of 90 or above. The weekend forecast called for highs in the low to mid-90s for most of the state.

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