As Georgia descends deeper into drought, Governor Sonny Perdue has ordered water restrictions, launched a legal battle and asked US President George W. Bush for help. Yesterday, the governor was to call on a higher power.
He was scheduled to join lawmakers and ministers on the steps of the state Capitol to pray for rain.
While public prayer vigils might raise eyebrows in other parts of the US, they are mostly shrugged off in the Bible Belt of the southern states, where turning to the heavens for help is common.
"Christianity has more of a place in the culture here than in some other region," said Ray Van Neste, a professor of Christian studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. "And it's only natural, in a way, for the public to pray for rain."
Perdue would not be the first governor to hold a call for public prayer during the epic drought gripping the Southeast. Alabama Governor Bob Riley issued a proclamation declaring a week in July as "Days of Prayer for Rain" to "humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty."
The loudest opposition to Perdue's move has come from the Atlanta Freethought Society, which is expecting about a dozen of its members to protest at the vigil.
With rivers and reservoirs dropping to dangerously low levels across the region, a prayer rally at a high school football stadium in Watkinsville, Georgia, drew more than 100 worshippers last week, and a gospel concert dedicated to rain attracted hundreds more two weeks ago at an Atlanta church.
A Baptist, Perdue has several times mentioned the need for prayer, along with water conservation, as the crisis has worsened.