Accessibility links

Widespread Drought Plagues Southeastern United States

Better weather conditions in Southern California are giving firefighters hope in their battle against large wildfires. But parts of the Southeastern United States, stretching from Tennessee across the Carolinas and into Georgia, are suffering from what the U.S. government calls an exceptional drought -- the highest intensity on its scale. As VOA's Paul Sisco reports, some tempers are flaring.

Members of a South Carolina church gather to pray. "Bring rain to this thirsty land," they say. They are praying for rain, while in suburban Atlanta, authorities say some people are reporting their neighbors' water violations. 'I'd like to report a resident who is watering their lawn.'

And in the remote mountain town of Orme, Tennessee, the spring is now dry. Mayor Tony Reames says, "This is a disaster. Without water things die."

At six o'clock each night, Mayor Reames turns the water on for his town, and then three hours later, turns it off.

The five million people of the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area could soon face similar hardships. The area's main water source, a reservoir known as Lake Lanier, is running critically low.

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue says, "We need the President to cut through the tangle of unnecessary bureaucracy to manage our resources prudently. It doesn't make any sense."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing more than a billion gallons of water from Lake Lanier every day. The water flows into Alabama and Florida, the amount maintained, in part, to protect an endangered species of freshwater mussel.

A White House spokesman said the government is drafting interim rules to address the situation, but deep concerns remain.

This week, rain fell in many parts of the Southeast U.S., perhaps an answer to the prayers of South Carolinians. But in general the rain deficit remains high and the weather forecasters expect a dryer than usual winter.