After more than six weeks of temperatures in the 90s and low 100s with very little rain, many Georgians are asking, “How dry is it?”The Aug. 21 statewide Palmer Drought Severity Index value was -2.7. This means that the state as a whole is classified as being in moderate drought. A statewide PDSI value of -3 would classify Georgia as being in severe drought. Across the state, drought conditions range from mild to severe. A historical perspective adds more meaning to the PDSI. The statewide value of -2.7 is at the 2nd percentile for the third week in August. This means that in 98 out of 100 years, the statewide PDSI value for the third week in August would be higher, or less dry. In short, Georgia is having one of the worst August droughts on record. The PDSI is a long-term drought indicator and responds slowly to recent weather. Statewide PDSI values are available back to 1895. August 1998 through July 1999 was the 12th driest statewide August-through-July since 1895. July 1999 was the 24th driest since 1895. How Hot Is It? Another common question among Georgians is “How hot is it?” In July, statewide average temperature was above normal. But it was only the 60th warmest statewide July since 1895. The statewide average for May through July was actually below normal. The period ranked as only the 25th warmest May-through-July since 1895. However, because of a very warm winter, the average statewide for August 1998 through July 1999 was the 98th warmest since 1895.Stream Flow Rates a Concern The drought is having different impacts across the state. As of Aug. 23, the flow in many rivers and creeks was in the bottom 10th percentile. Low flow rates and water table levels are becoming a concern statewide. Outdoor watering bans are common across the state.Short-term Relief Scattered rain Aug. 23-24 brought short-term relief to many parts of the state. But this rain won’t break the drought. Most of the state needs more than half a foot of rain to end the drought. Northeast Georgia needs more than a foot. As of Aug. 21, the PDSI classifies northeast, west central, southwest and southeast Georgia as being in severe drought. North central, central, east central and south central Georgia are in moderate drought. Northwest Georgia is in mild drought.Soil Moisture Short The Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service reports that moisture is short to very short in 81 percent of the state’s soils. This is unchanged from a week earlier. The 81 percent compares to 28 percent last year and 41 percent for the five-year average. GASS reports that more than 50 percent of the state’s pastures are poor to very poor. Some farmers are doing supplemental feeding and culling herds. The hot weather has stressed dairy cattle. The Crop Moisture Index is a measure of soil moisture available for use by crops. The Aug. 21 CMI indicates that southwest Georgia is extremely dry, with dryland crops in danger of being ruined. West central Georgia is severely dry, with potential yields severely cut. Excessively dry soils reduce yield prospects in northwest and northeast Georgia. And abnormally dry soils are hurting yield prospects in central, east central and southeast Georgia. The CMI indicates that soil moisture is short in north central and south central Georgia.Drought Links PDSI and CMI values and rankings are calculated by Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You can get updates on drought conditions in Georgia and across the Southeast at the University of Georgia drought Web site. Or call your county Extension Service agent. Get updated weather data at the Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Web site.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki CommonsSaturday’s season opener will mark the first time in program history that USC has ever faced a team from the Mid-American Conference. Western Michigan finished last season 13-1 and as MAC Champions for the first time since 1988. They also made an appearance in the Cotton Bowl this January, where they lost to Wisconsin by eight points. The Broncos suffered several key departures from last season, but also have several key pieces remaining. The most noticeable difference is at the head coaching position. For the last five years, the Broncos were coached by P.J. Fleck, the youngest head coach in Division I football. Fleck’s energy and ability to recruit top players were vital factors in the Broncos’ rise. Fleck took WMU from the bottom of the MAC to the Cotton Bowl in five years. He singlehandedly changed the culture of both the team and Western Michigan University before leaving to the Big Ten to coach Minnesota.With Fleck exiting, WMU alum Tim Lester steps in. Lester is a former Western Michigan quarterback himself, finishing his college career then ranked fourth all-time in passing yards and sixth in touchdowns. He also set 17 WMU and MAC records as a Bronco. Lester has been coaching college football since 2004, including a stint at Western Michigan, but his most recent coaching position was at Purdue University in 2015.Lester is focused on making the program his own in a variety of ways. He made waves by choosing not to name any captains of the team for this season, instead allowing team leaders to naturally emerge and picking players for the coin toss on a game-by-game basis.“I know the captain thing is a big deal, but the way I’ve done it is that I don’t feel like four people is enough leaders on the team,” Lester said in a press conference. “Four people to lead 103 doesn’t make any sense to me. We have a leadership group of 20 guys, and we’ll rotate captains every week.”Offensively, the Broncos lost arguably the best wide receiver in college football last season in Corey Davis. Davis finished his WMU career with 5,278 yards, making him the Football Bowl Subdivision all-time leader in receiving yards. He was drafted fifth overall by the Tennessee Titans. Along with Davis, the Broncos also lost starting right tackle and second-round draft pick Taylor Moton and WMU’s all-time leading passer in quarterback Zach Terrell. The quarterback position will be filled by redshirt sophomore Jon Wassink, who led his high school to two state championships before committing to Western Michigan. “I have a lot of experience playing young quarterbacks,” Lester said. “You have to play defense and run the ball to keep them out of bad situations, so there is a lot our team can do to help Jon. I don’t think he’ll let his nerves get in the way, but the thing for him will be the speed. The speed of the game the first time you go out there is unlike anything you’re ever used to.”The Broncos will undoubtedly have to replace a lot of firepower on offense if they plan to remain amongst the top offenses in the MAC. They’ll do so with three returning offensive linemen. Behind those returning linemen are two of the best runners in the MAC, Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan. Franklin finished last season with 1,353 yards rushing, while Bogan finished with 923 yards. Both yardage totals ranked in the top six rushing totals in the MAC last season. The main departure for the Broncos on the defensive end was Keion Adams. Adams was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft after being a key piece in WMU’s 13-1 season last year. Even with that loss, the Broncos still return cornerback Darius Phillips, last year’s conference leader in interceptions and kickoff return yards. After leaving the team for a short period this summer, starting linebacker and leading tackler Robert Spillane also returns. Spillane was named to the all-MAC second team after a strong junior season in which he finished with 105 tackles and three interceptions. Linebacker Asantay Brown and safety Justin Tranquill return as well, making the defense this team’s strength. It is undoubtedly difficult to replicate a nearly undefeated season, so the Broncos will have to take somewhat of a step back. Doing so with a new coaching staff and a game on the road against a top-five team makes the sledding even tougher. The Broncos may struggle in a tough opener Saturday at the Coliseum. However, the Broncos can make it through the first two games of the season — on the road against USC and Michigan State, respectively — they should be in the running for another MAC Championship.