McDONOUGH — According to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, virtually all of the south metro Atlanta area, including all of Henry and Clayton counties, is now in an “extreme” drought, the second-highest level of drought.
The drought has only worsened in intensity due to the lack of rainfall, according to data released Thursday morning. Last week, a small portion of Henry County and much of Clayton County was classified in an “extreme” drought while the rest was in a “severe” drought, the third-highest level of drought.
This is the worst drought to hit the area in at least a year. According to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor, areas under an “extreme” drought have the majority of hay and grazing lost, landscaping businesses are negatively affected, agriculture suffers economic loss, trees have early leaf drop, the ground starts to crack, rivers and livestock ponds dry up, wells dry up, and mandatory water conservation is typically implemented.
While the outdoor burning season usually starts on Oct. 1, the ban on open outdoor burning was extended due to the drought conditions in Henry County.
Earlier this week, Michael Black, assistant chief of prevention and fire marshal for the Henry County Fire Department, said the county was still under a total burn restriction, and the department would continue to monitor conditions and inform the public of any significant changes.
The open burning ban prohibits citizens and businesses from burning yard and land-clearing debris from May 1 through Sept. 30. This is in addition to the rule that prohibits the burning of household garbage. Burning household garbage is never allowed anywhere in Georgia.
Ground-level ozone is most commonly produced in the heat of the summer. Ground-level ozone can cause lung inflammation as well as other health problems. Open burning also creates particle pollution, which consists of extremely small particles that can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
May through September is a time of year when people, particularly children, are more likely to be outdoors. The outdoor activity also coincides with the increase in ground-level ozone and particle pollution.