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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- 20 May 16, 2000


South Carolina is facing its third straight year of drought with no sign of relief. The state experienced the worst drought conditions in over a decade last summer with concerns that this summer may be just as severe. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources expects to convene the Statewide Drought Response Committee by next week.

The lack of rain and abnormally warmer temperatures can be blamed on La Nina, a weather pattern that causes a cooling of the waters in the Pacific, according to state and federal climatologists. La Nina tends to bring drier-than-normal conditions to the Southeast and much of the rest of the nation. The National Weather Service is predicting that La Nina may linger through August with below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures forecast for South Carolina through the summer.

Drought impacts are taking their toll especially on agriculture and hydrologic conditions. According to the South Carolina Agricultural Statistics Service, dry soils coupled with unusually high daytime temperatures have stalled most planting operations. Crops that have been planted are showing moisture stress. Soil moisture ratings across the state were plummeting at 18 percent very short, 63 percent short and 19 percent adequate.

With the dry soils, there is also concern about the threat of forest fires. The S.C. Forestry Commission is discouraging anyone from prescribed burning until weather conditions improve. Ken Cabe, Forestry Commission spokesperson, emphasizes that if people must burn they need to realize that fire intensity will be higher and fires could be more difficult to control due to dry fuels.

Thirty-one percent of South Carolina's monitored rivers are experiencing record low flows. Many rivers have experienced a 30 to 50 percent drop in flow in the last eight days. According to Bud Badr, hydrologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), several of the lakes are also below their normal operational level for May. Lake Thurmond reported the lowest April inflow on record.

Drought Response Program coordinator Hope Mizzell with DNR's State Climatology Office reports that since January 1, rainfall has been well below normal across the state. As of May 14, Beaufort had received 48 percent, Clemson 59 percent, Johnston 68 percent, Sumter 71 percent, and Florence 73 percent of normal rainfall. She emphasized that this is the time of year when soil-moisture loss from evaporation normally exceeds rainfall. During the summer, the potential evaporation rate over surface waters is normally 0.3 inches per day, but can be as high as 0.5 inches per day. As the summer season arrives, there is concern that South Carolina's source of moisture which are usually isolated thunderstorms may not provide sufficient relief.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources has activated the Drought Information Center in Columbia and will continue to closely monitoring the below normal rainfall, low river flow conditions, and deteriorating soil moisture. The public is asked to contact the Drought Information Center at (803) 737- 0800 if they need additional information.

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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