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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 #99 - August 11, 1999


The S.C. Department of Natural Resources issued a moderate drought declaration for all South Carolina counties after meeting with the S.C. Drought Response Committee today in Columbia.

The S.C. Drought Response Committee is comprised of representatives from state and federal agencies.

A moderate drought declaration, the second of four drought levels specified in the Drought Response Act of 1985, means drought conditions have continued to deteriorate and are expected to persist. As a result, the Land, Water and Conservation Division of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reviewing drought- related variables such as temperature, precipitation, runoff, streamflow, ground-water levels, reservoir levels, soil moisture and public water supplies on a daily basis.

The Crop Moisture Index, which measures short-term soil moisture needed for crop growth, indicates that excessively dry conditions exist across the state and are severely affecting growers and grazing livestock throughout the state. Freddy Vang, deputy director of DNR's Land, Water and Conservation Division, told the committee that his department is working with members of the agricultural community both here and in Washington, D.C., to determine what measures can be taken to alleviate these "difficult times for the farmers in our state."

"We are keenly aware of the severity of the situation with regard to the agricultural community," Vang said. "If there is any action that we can take to assist those whose livelihood depends on agricultural and forestry interests, then we are prepared to act immediately."

South Carolina has been experiencing drought conditions for the past 14 months. According to Hope Miizzell with the DNR State Climatology Office, drought deficits range from 8 to 26 inches below normal since June 1998. Since July 1, the state has received 30 to 50 percent of normal rainfall.

According to the National Weather Service forecast, no rainfall is expected within the next six to 10 days. State Climatologist Mike Helfert says the best hope for any drought relief would be rainfall. "We need a statewide rainfall to last three to five days," Helfert said. "And not just one week, but two weeks. The only way to get that is through some major tropical system, the kindest of which would be a decaying hurricane or an unnamed tropical storm." However, Helfert says there is no sign of any such system either in the Atlantic or from the northeast Gulf of Mexico.

A survey of water suppliers across the state conducted by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) indicates that water supplies are currently sufficient. The DNR reports that below-normal rainfall in the winter and spring of this year has resulted in record-low streamflows and low groundwater storage. Water withdrawers who depend on wells or unregulated streams may experience water shortages and deteriorating water quality in the near future as water storage continues to decrease in the weeks ahead.

The Drought Response Committee encourages local water suppliers to review drought response ordinances and plans for their area. The DNR's Drought Information Center has been activated in Columbia. The public should contact the center at (803) 737- 0800 for more information or if other problems arise. The public is also strongly encouraged to monitor water resources closely and help by conducting voluntary water conservation as a contingency for even drier conditions in the near future.

The S.C. Forestry Commission reports that fire occurrence is increasing slightly, but fire danger has not reached critical levels.

The DNR will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as needed. Integrated drought information is available on the DNR's State Climatology Office Internet Web Site.

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

- Written by Dawn Mills Campbell

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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