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Desperately seeking 'major rainfall events'
Record dry spell threatens agriculture, could affect recreational activities

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — Spring's arrival follows the driest December, January and February span in 117 years of record keeping in the Tennessee Valley Authority's seven-state region, a spokesman for the utility said.

TVA spokesman John Moulton said the winter dry spell is based on average rainfall amounts for those three months.

Knoxville-based TVA provides electricity through 158 distributors in Tennessee and parts of Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Chattanooga's rainfall is about 8 inches below normal since Jan. 1.

National Weather Service hydrologist Brian Boyd said Northeast Alabama and the southern Cumberland Plateau counties in Tennessee are even drier and are in a "severe drought."

Northwest Georgia and Southwest Virginia are also dry, he said.

Boyd said he was not wishing for tropical storms but several "major rainfall events" are needed to replenish water supplies.

"That's really what we need is that kind of rainfall," he said.

Randy Kerr, TVA's river forecasting manager, said the utility has "been in a water conservation mode for little over a month, and our pool levels are actually a little bit above where they should be."

"This is just now where we start really aggressively filling our reservoirs," he said.

Kerr said TVA's main river channels likely will be unaffected. But if conditions remain dry, it's possible that water levels of tributaries such as the Hiawassee and Ocoee rivers may be below levels required for rafting and recreation, he said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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