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South Carolina State Climatology Office
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South Carolina Drought News Release

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Land, Water and Conservation Division
South Carolina Drought Response Program
Department of Natural Resources News (803) 734-4133

SPECIAL NEWS RELEASE #00 - 28 June 7, 2000


The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has upgraded the drought status of 10 southern South Carolina counties to "moderate," the second level, joining 27 upstate counties. Nine Pee Dee counties are still listed as "incipient,"the first level of drought.

The S.C. Drought Response Committee which met today (Wednesday, June 7) in Columbia upgraded the drought status of 10 lower state counties based on below normal precipitation, record low streamflow levels, agricultural stress and the potential threat of forest fires.

An incipient drought declaration issued May 24 was upgraded to "moderate" for Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton and Jasper counties. A moderate drought declaration, the second of four drought levels specified in the Drought Response Act of 1985, means that drought conditions have continued to deteriorate and are expected to persist.

The "moderate" drought declaration issued May 24 remains in effect for Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Clarendon, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lee, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York counties.

An "incipient drought," the first drought level, issued May 24, remains in effect for nine counties: Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg.

Recent rains have provided some temporary relief from the drought that plagues South Carolina but the rainfall received was spotty, said Freddy Vang, deputy director for land water and conservation with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Columbia Owens Field received an inch more of rain than Columbia Airport not far away. Areas such as Loris got 3 inches and experienced flooding; but other locations like Greenwood reported no rain."

Over the next 60 days drought conditions across South Carolina could very possibly deteriorate, according to Vang. "Even with a return to normal rainfall the evaporation rate would take care of that. Normal rainfall for June is 1.2 inches a week, by comparison most locations received only one-half inch at best during the recent rain period. With an evaporation rate of 0.3 or higher, an inch of rain is gone in three days. Our normally dry months - August and September - are yet to come."

While wildfire occurrence over the past six weeks has been higher than normal, S.C. Forestry Commission officials say the situation is well within manageable limits. "If this level of activity occurred during March, we would call it moderate," said Fire Information Officer Ken Cabe. "It is unusual only because it comes during a season when South Carolina's wildfire activity is not historically high." Cabe said drought is only one of several conditions that contribute to overall wildfire danger.

"Little or no chance of rain for the next five days" was predicted by Bernie Palmer, meteorologist in charge for the National Weather Service in Columbia. For the following week (June 12) Palmer's forecast was "scattered showers or thunderstorms if any rain coming mid or late week." He said that the recent front associated winds increased the evaporation rate of rains received even with cooler temperatures.

"Current flows in many streams across the state are near or lower than the lowest flows observed during the drought of 1999," according to Dr. Masaaki Kiuchi, DNR hydrologist. The worst area is west and southwestern part of the state. "For the period May 16 - June 5 stream level monitoring stations across the state documented drought effects with some of the lowest levels recorded at Twelve Mile Creek near Liberty, Rocky Creek at Great Falls; Little River near Mt. Carmel; Stevens Creek near Modoc, South Fork Edisto near Denmark, Salkehatchie River near Miley and Coosawahatchie River near Hampton.

David Baize, Water Monitoring Division director for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), reported that his agency has advised dischargers to increase monitoring.

David Tompkins, assistant commissioner for the S.C. Department of Agriculture, said as a result of the drought watermelon and cantaloupe crops are coming in very early and will be finished by July 4. Reports from many farmers are that the corn crop is "hurt severely" with 60 percent or less of the normal yield projected. Many farmers are saying that this is the earliest they have ever seen drought affect their crops.

Drought committee members expressed concerns about the impact of diminishing groundwater levels in shallow wells. A test well at Aiken State Park recently reached an all-time low. Winter rains were insufficient to recharge groundwater aquifers to normal levels.

The Drought Response Committee encourages local water suppliers to implement drought response ordinances and plans for their area. Water suppliers are requested to send copies of any notice of voluntary or mandatory restrictions to the Drought Information Center. The DNR will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed. The public may contact the center at (803) 737-0800 for more information.

For more information, contact State Drought Program Coordinator Hope Mizzell in the DNR State Climatology Office at (803) 737-0800 in Columbia.

Written by Mike Creel

Find out more about the State Climatology Office at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/climate/sco/ or by calling (803) 734-9100.

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