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MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2007
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Smoke clears to put blue back in Valley skies

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

If you noticed the blue skies Sunday, it wasn’t an illusion.

The combination of a west-northwest wind direction and Saturday’s scattered showers helped clean the Tennessee Valley’s air, said meteorologist Dave Nadler of the National Weather Service office in Huntsville.

He hopes the area saw the last of the smoke as those battling Georgia and Florida forest fires got a handle on the blazes.

According to The Associated Press, Tropical Storm Barry gave a much-needed soaking to thousands of acres of burning swamp and timberland in northern Florida and southeastern Georgia on Saturday, allowing firefighters to relax a little and focus on hot spots missed by the rain.

Though the rainfall — as much as 6 inches in some spots — was a tremendous help, residents living near the fires are not out of the woods, said Larry Morris with the joint information center in Waycross.

“The thing we’re really concerned about is that people will really become complacent and think that everything’s back to normal,” Morris told AP. “It’s still a live fire. Contained does not mean controlled, and it does not mean extinguished.”

Morris estimated that the fire, which fire crews have battled for more than a month, is now about 85 percent contained. Georgia residents near Folkston and Kingsland should be reminded of the blaze on Monday, when smoke is expected to return to the area as the winds shift.

The North Alabama skies also remained clear of storm clouds Sunday. People living east of Interstate 65 might have gotten rain, but the rest were probably unlucky as hit-and-mostly-miss scattered showers swept through the area.

Nadler said Monday brings a 20 percent chance and, if you aren’t lucky enough to get any precipitation before the day ends, it may be a week before there’s another chance for more as the drought deepens.

Temperatures should be in the 80s during the day and 60s at night, but highs should rise into the lower 90s on Wednesday or Thursday.

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