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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 #02 - 00 June 19, 2002

DROUGHT UPGRADED TO SEVERE STATEWIDE IN SOUTH CAROLINA

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has upgraded South Carolina's drought status from moderate to severe statewide, including all 46 counties. The decision to move to the severe stage was unanimous when members of the state and four regional S.C. Drought Response Committees met today (Wednesday, June 19) in Columbia in Richland County Council Chambers.

The entire state has reached severe drought status, which was the consensus today of all four regional Drought Response Committees , said Hope Mizzell, the state's drought program coordinator with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), based on below normal precipitation, record low streamflow levels, agricultural stress and the potential threat of forest fires. The state had been under a "moderate" drought declaration since Sept. 11, 2001.

Alfred Vang, DNR Deputy Director of the Land, Water and Conservation Division, stressed that the committee voted to upgrade the state's drought status to severe on the side of caution to protect life and property during the coming days of potential water shortages. The committee wants to ensure that everyone is prepared for more serious drought conditions and not caught off guard by these impacts.

According to Tom Ardrey with the National Weather Service in Columbia and Milt Brown, Acting State Climatologist with DNR, the summer precipitation outlook does not show any substantial relief from the drought. We're not going to overcome this drought with a pattern of evening thunderstorms because it's just too spotty, Brown said. It would take a tropical system to have an impact on this drought."

"Most stream flows in South Carolina are currently at their historical lowest flows for this time of the year, according to DNR hydrologist Bud Badr. Water levels in shallow and deep water wells continue to decline."

During today's drought committee meeting Ted Cooney, data chief for the U.S. Geological Survey in South Carolina presented computer graphs from June 18 showing that many streamflow monitoring gauges in the state have reached are very near to new record low levels. He said that some of the stream gauges date back to the turn of the century.

Hope Mizzell, Drought Program Coordinator urged recreational boaters to watch dropping water levels in streams and lakes that could create hazardous conditions and to proceed with extreme caution. All boaters need to be alert to the new water hazards such as shallow water, stumps, logs and old pilings and rocks created by low water conditions.

South Carolina Forestry Commission spokesman Ken Cabe said that careless burning is the leading cause of wildfires in South Carolina. Careless burning, including failure to tend an outdoor fire, is a violation of state law. In addition to criminal charges, careless burners are also liable for civil damages if their fire burns someone else's property. Forestry Commission officials said drought conditions mean outdoor burning must be handled with extreme caution. Any outdoor fire should be tended constantly until the fire is out and all embers are extinguished.

David Baize, Water Monitoring division director with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), said there are no reported water quality problems at this time; however, DHEC is issuing letters to all water system owners and dischargers requesting their attention to the drought conditions. Both DNR and DHEC stress to the public and water suppliers that while water restrictions are not popular, early and effective use of voluntary restrictions, where needed, may be necessary to protect water integrity and quality.

"Agriculture is in a critical situation because of the continuing drought, possibly the worst in many years, said David Tompkins, State Farmers Market administrator with the S.C. Department of Agriculture. It's critical at this time of year for our corn crop to get rain, and we are already seeing damage. For many fruits and vegetables it will be a much shorter season with good quality watermelons and cantaloupes ripening and coming into the market over a short time period, rather than prolonged as it should be. The drought is making peaches smaller, but they are just as tasty as ever. The state's farmers are experiencing a natural disaster and hopefully there will be some financial assistance because of it."

According to Gene Cornett in the Central Drought Management region cattle producers around the state are already feeding hay because the grassland and summer forages are not growing. The first cutting of hay was less than 50 percent of average amounts. Many cattle producers are considering herd reductions.

Dean Moss, general manager of the Beaufort - Jasper Water and Sewer Authority, speaking for the Western Drought Management Committee that includes 13 counties in the Savannah River drainage, reported that his group voted to increase the area's drought status from moderate to severe due to present and diminishing stream and ground water levels. "We encourage individual water users in our area to voluntarily implement water conservation measures. Also, municipal users should consider implementing mandatory water conservation."

Representing the Northeastern Drought Management Committee that includes 10 counties in the Pee Dee drainage, Mike Hancock, general manager of the Lugoff - Elgin Water Authority, said, "We are in unanimous agreement to declare a severe drought in our region. We encourage local governments to institute water conservation measures.

Sumter City Manager Talmadge Tobias, a member of the Central Drought Management Committee which includes 18 counties in the Santee Drainage, said his group recommended escalation to a severe drought status in their region, which extends from the North Carolina state line south to the coast. There is no recommendation for mandatory water restrictions in the Central Drought Management Area unless required by local government agencies.

Representing the Southern Drought Management Committee that covers six counties in the ACE Basin, Terry Tudor of the Goose Creek Special Purpose District said her group voted to upgrade the region's drought status from moderate to severe in light of the scientific evidence for greatly reduced water levels and the current outlook. She said that while everybody in the region is not experiencing the same drought-related problems, many people currently are, and more may be impacted.

DNR will continue to monitor the statewide drought and provide updates as needed. The public should contact the center at (803) 734-9100 for more information or if other problems arise. Hope Mizzell is State Drought Program coordinator in the DNR State Climatology Office at (803) 734-9100 in Columbia.

Mike Creel News Section Chief SC Department of Natural Resources 1000 Assembly St., P.O. Box 167 Columbia, South Carolina 29202 Phone: 803-734-3950 Fax: 803-734-3951 creelm@dnr.sc.gov

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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