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4 days of rain save Atlanta area from driest-year-on-record title; reservoir level rises
Southern Drought Heal
Chapin Mathews, of Richmond, Va., jumps a puddle in downtown Atlanta, Ga. Sunday, Dec. 30, 2007. Despite four straight days of rain and a cloud-choked grey sky that lingered through the weekend, it appears 2007 will go down as the Atlanta area's driest year on record, National Weather Service forecasters said Sunday. - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA - This year was almost one for the record books, but then it rained for four days straight.

With Thursday through Sunday's rainfall totals, the water level in a key reservoir rose for the first time in months and 2007 barely missed becoming Atlanta's driest year on record. That dubious honor stayed with 1954, when only 31.80 inches of rain fell.

Atlanta is at the center of a historic drought that has engulfed more than one-third of the Southeast. The affected region includes most of Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, as well as parts of Kentucky and Virginia.

Even four days of rain couldn't touch the epic dry spell, but normal rainfall levels over the next few months could help return disappearing lakes, rivers and streams to their former glory, said Brian Lynn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Peachtree City.

Sunday's showers pushed the city up to 31.85 inches for the year. The state got no more rain Monday morning, except for a small amount in southeastern Georgia, and the day was expected to remain mostly dry, the weather service said.

A parade of rainstorms that began the week before Christmas helped Atlanta escape its driest year on record. Rain fell in the city on 10 of the last 12 days.

But the moisture had only a small effect on Lake Lanier, the metropolitan area's main source of drinking water. The reservoir rose less than a half-foot after hitting an all-time low last week — from 1,050.79 feet above sea level last Wednesday to 1,051.25 feet at 6 a.m. Monday.

"It was a modest rise in the lake level, but it's the first one we've seen in months," said Rob Holland, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"But we'd like to get a whole lot more," he said.

The lack of rainfall across the region has set off intense fighting between Georgia, Florida and Alabama over the federal government's management of water in the region.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has asked the federal government to release less water from its reservoirs, such as Lanier, but Alabama and Florida are concerned about how that would affect their supplies. Last month, Perdue held a public prayer vigil for rain on the steps of the Capitol.

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