Is drought officially over

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The rain came steadily down and after a few hours it was gone.

A couple of inches of much-needed rain.

That was Thursday.

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Friday brought another line of storms through the area. Hard rain that lasted just a couple of hours or so. No power for over an hour as a couple of twisters played havoc with some power lines. Another couple of inches. It has been a long time since we had two days of thunderstorms producing that much rain.

However, that was nothing compared to the deluge that hit Saturday. The storms started that morning. Rain falling at more than an inch and a half an hour. The first band passed only to be followed by a second and then a third.

About 2 p.m., I decided to head to Dothan since the rain had let up a bit. As soon as I crossed the Chattahoochee River, I was met by the Lucy Volunteer Fire Department. I may be the only person reading this column that knows where Lucy is located in southeast Alabama.

The young man walked up and told me that all traffic was being turned around and being sent back to Georgia. I asked him about an alternate route and he responded again that I had to go back to Georgia.

I grew up in this part of Alabama and know all the backroads. I decided to give it a shot.

I headed up to Gordon, where I picked up a stranded family from Wisconsin that was hopelessly lost. I told them to follow me. They got to see was a very isolated part of the state with water blocking us at every turn. Every dry creek bed was over the road, no matter what direction we headed.

Like all men, I hate to admit defeat, but I decided to head back to the Georgia side and then down the river road to Florida. By then the folks from Wisconsin had seen all they wanted to see and headed back to Interstate 10 in Tallahassee.

Water crossed the highway three times along River Road, and once on the road to Malone. After that, the storm eased off and I finished making my way to Dothan. What is normally a 35-minute trip had turned into a two-hour adventure.

Hundreds of lightning strikes. Winds knocking down limbs. A trickle of water in a stream turning into whitewater rapids in just hours. Nature seemed very angry.

Sunday, the day was beautiful. Cool, crisp air with not a cloud in the sky. We read about hurricanes, tornadoes and avalanches all over the world, but right here in our neck of the woods, we saw nature produce almost 12 inches of rain just from a low pressure moving through the area.

They say more rain by Wednesday. Perhaps the drought is finally breaking for good. At least we washed all that pollen away.

As much rain as we have had, it in no way compares to the floods happening in Fargo, North Dakota.

To be honest, I would never have thought about North Dakota flooding at all. The Red River, one of the few that flows north, crested this week at 43 feet.

I have an old college friend that serves as senior minister of The First Presbyterian Church of Fargo and have been in touch with him over the past week. Fifteen families from their congregation have been displaced by the flooding. He confirmed what the news reports had been saying all week regarding the heroic efforts of the people of Fargo. Thousands of people worked around the clock filling sand bags to save their town.

It appears their efforts will be largely successful. I suspect the bonds that community made in working together against that river will yield positive results long after the floodwaters have receded. When the chips are really down, we will do what we have to do for our friends and community.

High writing

This column is being written about 40,000 miles above New Mexico. For three months I haven’t been on a plane, the longest traveling hiatus for me in a very long time. Newport Beach this week followed by trips back West each of the next couple of weeks.

While I may get tired of traveling, I never get tired of the sights of this country from high above. It is magnificent in so many different ways. I still say no place in this country compares with southwest Georgia in the spring.

No good news

This week will do it for the General Assembly as the legislators head home after another long session. There isn’t a lot of good news that can come out of Atlanta when the revenue is so far below the proposed budget.

The cuts to government health care through either Medicaid or PeachCare are especially painful in rural Georgia. Education continues to have needs that far exceed our revenue. Transportation is a mess in Atlanta and north Georgia, but the needs of south Georgia are just as great as they have ever been.

Somehow we will balance the budget at the state level this year, because it is required by law. However, the ever-increasing tax revenues that fueled so much growth in state government over the past decade are not likely to return any time soon.

We have wasted a lot of time in the past by not seriously tackling the deeply imbedded problems of this state. For the next couple of years, it will be even harder as the well runs a bit drier. I expect that by this time next year the citizens of this state will be even angrier as the budget cuts find their way down to the local level.

If Georgia is going to ever reach its true potential, we must find the leadership that plans for the long term and then works together with both parties to get things implemented. Never has this state cried out for that strategic vision more than right now. Politicians often give us what we ask for; maybe we are asking for the wrong things.

We have already missed the boat a couple of times. This state don’t need to get left at the shore again.