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April 15, 2009

27 of state's counties now with no drought status

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources convened the S.C. Drought Response Committee on April 15 in Columbia. All areas of the state received much-needed rainfall over the past several weeks, prompting the Drought Response Committee to reduce the drought severity level state-wide.  These recent much above normal rain events can be deceptive, giving the impression the drought is over; however, groundwater levels have not recharged completely in those counties where the drought was maintained.

The counties downgraded to the moderate category are Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg,Drought map Anderson, Abbeville, Laurens, Greenwood, Union and Cherokee. The nine counties downgraded to incipient drought are Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, McCormick, Newberry, Saluda and York.

The drought declaration was removed completely from counties in the southern Midlands, along the coast and in the Pee Dee region.

For more information about drought, visit the Office of State Climatology.

According to DNR hydrologist Masaaki Kiuchi all 17 statewide stream flow gauges show no drought, "Lake levels around South Carolina are  normal except in the Savannah River Basin which is still well below normal although recent precipitation has improved lake levels."

Darryl Jones with the S.C. Forestry Commission says fire season began as a busy one, but he is cautiously optimistic, "We received rain frequently enough in March and April to lower the number of wildfires around the state. If we continue to receive regular rainfall, we should make it through the rest of the traditional wildfire season with a moderate number of fires."

West Drought Management Area committee member Dennis Chastain of Pickens urged the public to look at the broader picture given the recent precipitation around the state, "Certainly we are much better going into spring and summer than we had anticipated, but the public needs to look below the surface and realize we are still in a ten-year drought cycle. We need a substantial improvement in rainfall to recharge groundwater to anything like normal."

Northeast Drought Management Area committee member Mike Hancock from Lugoff-Elgin Water Authority stated, "While most of the drought indices we consider show improvement, we encourage continued voluntary water conservation measures." 
"The SC Department of Natural Resources will closely monitor the drought status and if rainfall is reduced the committee will promptly reconvene," said Ken Rentiers, Deputy Director, Land, Water and Conservation Division. 

Contact South Carolina State Climatologist Dr. Hope Mizzell in Columbia at (803) 734-9568 or e-mail  mizzellh@dnr.sc.gov for more information.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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