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Punishing Drought Dampens Recreation, Dries up Business in Eufaula, Alabama

Aired July 4, 2000 - 2:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Much of the southeastern U.S. remains in the midst of a punishing drought. The lack of rain has left the region's lakes and other waterways at levels well below normal, putting a damper on boating and other summertime recreation.

CNN's Brian Cabell has more from Alabama's Lake Eufaula -- Brian.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, we are on the shores of one of the most popular recreational lakes in the entire Southeast, but this year, as you can see, boaters are getting a slightly different look at this lake. The levels are down about five feet. They are actually at the lowest level for this date since 1965.

What we're standing on right now, as a matter of fact, should be under about two feet of water. This is the lake bed. All of this, of course, bad news for people who want to take their boats out because they can run them aground. Fisherman can't go to the places they normally want to go.

And people who depend on this lake economically are also hurting, people like Debbie Tatum, she owns a marina here.

Debbie, what sort of impact has it had on you this year?

DEBBIE TATUM, CO-OWNER, CHEWELL CREEK MARINA: Well, it has definitely had a profound impact on our business. We've had to close our launching ramp, and that of course effects our store sales, and this is our prime season and our store sales are extremely off this year.

CABELL: Off how much would you say?

TATUM: I would say about 40 percent.

CABELL: People just aren't coming out here the way they normally do?

TATUM: No, they're afraid they are going to hit something in the water or run aground.

CABELL: This is your prime season?

TATUM: This is our prime season. CABELL: Now, what happens if we get levels up in the next couple of weeks or so, are we past the high season for you already?

TATUM: Yes, from about the 1st of April to about mid-July is our prime season. We will still have activity through August to when the children go back to school. But after that, it's pretty much over.

CABELL: This season is pretty well lost.

TATUM: Yes, it is.

CABELL: Makes it tough on you, how are you getting by?

TATUM: We still have our service business, and we have our revenue from our docks. But we have lost the usage of some of our docks in the boat basin because of low water.

CABELL: Have you ever seen it quite like this? You have been here, what, 18 years?

TATUM: We have been here 18 years, and we have seen the water this low before, but we've not ever seen it this low so early in the year. Usually it happens more in August or September.

CABELL: And it promises to get a little worse here, doesn't it?

TATUM: If we don't get any rain it is going to get worse, I'm afraid.

CABELL: Debbie Tatum, thank you very much.

TATUM: You're welcome, thank you for coming.

CABELL: Again, that is Debbie Tatum, she owns a marina here. I should tell you, some of these piers back here, the water is about five feet deep, a lot of these boats need at least four feet of clearance. If it goes down another foot or so, they will be sitting on the lake bed.

I am Brian Cabell, CNN, live in Eufaula, Alabama.

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