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Steady rain keeping Lake Lanier at full pool
Lake Lanier
The Olympic tower at Lake Lanier Olympic Park is surrounded by water in Gainesville on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, after heavy rain. - photo by David Barnes

Lake Lanier has barely budged from full pool all summer as steady rainfall continues — a stark contrast with recent history.

In the past two days, the Gainesville area has received more than 2.2 inches of rain, putting rainfall in the past 48 hours almost equal to the entire month of July, which saw only 2.59 inches of rain in Gainesville.

But a dry July was the outlier, according to Georgia Climatologist Bill Murphey. Gainesville is at 38.6 inches of rainfall for the year, putting it about 7 inches above the historical average of about 31 inches of rain for the first seven months of the year.

A wet 2018 is having a dramatic effect on Lake Lanier — dramatic in the sense that nothing much, so far, is happening to the lake. It’s green waters have lapped the shores at around 1,072 feet above sea level since late April, a full foot above summer full pool. A record rain event in early June pushed the water level of the lake up to 1,074 feet.

High water washed over many of the lake’s public parks and boat ramps, leading to a few days of closures, cleanup and some dramatic pictures floating around online of debris piled up in coves and floating precariously through boating areas.

For the past 90 days, rainfall has been 150 percent of normal in Gainesville, Murphey said.

Looking at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wayback machine, it’s been five years since the folks of Lake Lanier have enjoyed so full a summer.

In Aug. 1, 2013, the lake was at 1,071.9 feet. The next year, it was at 1,070.3. There was a four-foot drop from 2013 to 2015, when the lake started August at 1,068 feet. The August dryout continued until this year.

It’s not just Gainesville and Hall County that have been seeing cooler, wetter weather this year. White County and beyond has seen repeated flooding along the Chattahoochee River this summer — part of the reason Lake Lanier has stayed so full for so long.

The current trend of rainfall this week is likely to break tomorrow and Saturday, but wet weather could be coming up from the Gulf into early next week. In the coming weeks, the weather over Gainesville should look fairly Southern.

“We’ll be more back into the summertime variety though of afternoon and evening thunderstorms,” Murphey said. “What we won’t have as much is the heavier and heavier amounts that we’ve had in the past couple of days. But some of those thunderstorms and showers can still dump an inch or an inch-and-a-half or so.”

Thunder and lightning have been booming and cracking their way over the lake for the past couple of weeks as summer storms heat up, but there’s one thing noticeably missing from summer rainfall records: Hurricanes.

It’s been quiet so far for intense storms since the season began in June, and it’s likely to be a below-average season through the end of November, according to meteorologists at Colorado State University.

“We estimate that the remainder of 2018 will have about three hurricanes (average is 5.5), nine named storms (average is 10.5), 40 named storm days (average is 58), 12 hurricane days (average is 21.3), one major (Category 3-4-5) hurricane (average is 2.0) and two major hurricane days (average is 3.9),” wrote report authors Philip J. Klotzbach and Michael M. Bell.

The report from CSU was published on Thursday, Aug. 2.

Below-average hurricane activity is being caused by a thus-far cool Atlantic Ocean, which is usually warmer during the summers than it is now, giving off the moisture and energy needed to churn up the destructive storms.

The researchers at Colorado State will publish reports every two weeks during the peak hurricane season, which runs from August to October. The reports can be found at tropical.colostate.edu.

“Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted,” the authors wrote.