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July 9, 2010

Drought Response Committee upgrades state to "incipient" status

A pattern of below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures over the past two months led the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to issue an incipient drought declaration statewide. The state agency members of the Drought Response Committee voted electronically on July 9, 2010 to upgrade to the first level of drought. The incipient drought declaration is followed by increasing levels of severity to moderate, severe and extreme status.

During incipient drought, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) activates the Drought Information Center and increases monitoring and notification of the drought status.

According to S.C. State Climatologist Hope Mizzell, the decision to upgrade was driven by the dry weather's impact on agriculture and increased wildfire activity, "After many sites experienced the wettest winter since 1998, we were optimistic that maybe finally we would get an extended break from the drought, but beginning in April the rainfall pattern changed."

Rainfall amounts and coverage have been especially insufficient since June 1 for many areas combined with above normal temperature (see table below). There are a few locations that have received much above normal rainfall since June 1, but they are isolated (such as Florence at 9.29" or 167% of normal and Chester at 6.72" or 120% of normal).

June 1 to July 8, 2010 - Rainfall Summary
Station - Rainfall Total - Percentage of Normal

David Tompkins, S.C. Department of Agriculture, emphasized the dry weather coupled with the high heat is a concern to the farm community. He noted that many of South Carolina's fruits and vegetables are grown under irrigation so consumers should continue to look for locally grown produce in stores. Please contact David Tompkins for questions about the drought impact on agriculture at (803) 734-2506.

Darryl Jones, S.C. Forestry Commission, reported that dry conditions and intense heat have resulted in an increase in wildfire activity across the state, "Since July 1, the Forestry Commission has responded to more than 30 wildfires and we have experienced some control problems because the fuels are getting very dry. If we don't get significant rain, fire behavior will become more extreme throughout the summer." Please contact Darryl Jones for questions about wildfire activity at (803) 896-8800.

According to Mark Malsick, DNR Severe Weather Liaison, the computer models are showing the possibility of limited relief with scattered afternoon and evening rain showers this weekend and again in the middle of next week. Rainfall amounts and coverage are expected to be limited, but a few cells could drop an inch of rain or more over a very short period. The rainfall lottery is typical for South Carolina in July.

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

South Carolina's natural resources are essential for economic development and contribute nearly $30 billion and 230,000 jobs to the state's economy. Find out why Life's Better Outdoors.

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