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Last updated 3:04AM ET
March 5, 2021
Central Alabama Saw Driest Year Ever
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Central Alabama ended its driest year on record Monday just as it spent most of 2007: Sunny, with hardly any chance of rain.

The National Weather Service said Birmingham received only 28.86 inches of precipitation for the last 12 months, compared to the previous yearly low 29 inches of rain. Other cities in the region didn't fare any better.

The old low-water mark for Birmingham was set in 1895, and a forecaster said the government is missing data from 114 days of that year. That means the '07 rainfall total was even more of an anomaly than it appears at first glance.

"Unofficially it looks like 2007 will be the driest calendar year on record," said Jim Westland, a weather service meteorologist.

By comparison, Atlanta received 31.85 inches of rain for the year. 2007 was the second-driest year on record there.

Other Alabama cities got even less rain for the year than Birmingham, including Anniston with 22.39 inches; Huntsville with 28.65 inches; and Tuscaloosa with 26.05 inches. Westland said the weather service is still compiling records to determine whether those cities had record years, too, but all the totals were well below normal.

Mobile received a comparable deluge of rain with 55.25 inches in 2007, but even that was low.

"It's still more than 10 inches below normal," said Westland.

The lack of rainfall means continued and worsening water restrictions in cities including Sylacauga, where the 12,600 residents are ringing in '08 with new surcharges for any customer who doesn't reduce monthly water use by at least 10 percent.

Sylacauga gets most of its water from creek-fed Lake Howard, and the reservoir is 114 inches below full after rising 11 inches with the last few days of rain, said Mike Richard, general manager of the Sylacauga Utilities Board.

The lake was full this time last year, Richard said.

"We're worried, but the surcharges are meant to give out the signal to our customers that this is something we need help with," he said.

About half of Alabama's acreage is gripped in the government's most severe drought classification, and all but the extreme southern end of the state is considered to be in a drought.

Experts say the Southeast is feeling the effects of a La Nina weather pattern that means drier than normal conditions at least through late winter.

Officials in Sylacauga and elsewhere are encouraging common-sense measures to save water like placing bricks in toilet tanks, running only full washer loads of clothes and dishes, and turning off faucets during teeth brushing.

"The 10 percent savings shouldn't be hard to reach," said Richard.

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