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'The worst I've seen it'
Dry weather prompts burning bans, water restrictions
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With continual dry weather, and no relief in sight, water restrictions and increased risks regarding fire safety have become a reality this week for Bryan County and other areas of the state.

As smoke from nearby Ware County and Fort Stewart has infiltrated the borders of Bryan County these past few days, the dangers of drought have become all too apparent for area residents. With summer practically here and the harsh weather that that brings, a good, hard rain is desperately needed.

"This is the worst I’ve seen it," said Pembroke Fire Chief Jimmy Cook. "I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it as long and dry as it is right now."

"The drought index right now is 500-plus," said RHPD Fire Chief Vernon Rushing. "Normal would be 250, so it’s twice as dry as it should be. On top of that, humidity has been running 15-30 percent. Normal is 60 percent."

On April 18, the director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) declared a level two drought response across the state that requires all Georgians to follow a strict outdoor water use schedule.

Starting April 16, the forestry commission stopped issuing permits for outdoor burning in South Georgia due to the dry conditions. RHPD Chief Vernon Rushing urges residents to call the forestry commission at 884-3331 before burning leaves to see if conditions allow it, as the ban fluctuates as weather conditions change.

"Every area of Georgia has been in a persistent and progressive drought condition since last June," said EPD Director Carol Couch. "It’s important that we take steps now to prepare for the warm, typically dry summer months."

Couch mandated the water restrictions after consulting with the State Drought Response Committee.

"March was very dry, and it’s historically a very wet month in Georgia," said State Climatologist David Stooksbury. "That’s one of the reasons we’re in trouble now."

Effective immediately, this level two drought declaration limits outdoor water use to mornings only. The mandatory limitations for watering are as follows:

- Odd-numbered addresses may water on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday 12 midnight to 10 a.m.

- Even-numbered addresses may water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12 midnight to 10 a.m.

- Some commercial endeavors are exempt from the restrictions.

Those caught in violation can be fined by any code enforcement agencies, which include police, fire and DNR.

"What people don’t realize is that, as hot as it is, 65 percent of the water evaporates before it soaks into the ground during day time hours anyway," said Rushing.

In the occurrence of high winds, which we have seen lately, the potential exists for small isolated fires to become wildfires as they combine with the dry conditions. This has become all too evident lately with reported large-scale fires in Ware, Long, Macintosh and Chatham counties this month alone.

Both ends of the county have experienced small-scale fires this past week, all of which had the potential to escalate.

"We assisted the county with 4-5 wood fires just this past week," said Rushing.

Another threat from this dry weather is crops on area farmlands. With several farmers residing in Pembroke, Cook is well aware of this peril. He said he was driving near a local farm recently and witnessed some apparent erosion from the hot and windy conditions.

"The top soil must be gone because it looked like a dust storm from out west," said Cook.

The saving grace for our area is simple: rain, and lots of it.

"By now, we need a tropical storm, but we’re not going to get that," said Rushing. "It’s going to take several days of rain. One rain shower isn’t going to get us where we need to be."



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