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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

NEWS RELEASE #02 - August 26, 2002

'EXTREME' DROUGHT STATUS NOW COVERS ALL 46 COUNTIES

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee has upgraded the final seven counties to "extreme" drought status, meaning that all 46 counties in the state are now included in the most dire drought category.

All of South Carolina, with the exception of seven counties, has been listed in the extreme drought status since July 24. The counties that now join the extreme drought category are Bamberg, Berkeley, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester and Orangeburg. The Southern Drought Response Committee voted Aug. 20 in Columbia to upgrade the seven counties to extreme status given the agriculture and forestry conditions. The Southern Drought Response Committee motion stated, "Conservation efforts by local water suppliers will be determined by them contingent upon water supply availability."

The Drought Response Committee has not yet recommended statewide or regional mandatory water restrictions. However, local officials may call for mandatory or voluntary restrictions as part of their local response.

The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which convenes the Drought Response Committee, conducted a survey of the largest 350 water systems in the state to determine the conservation measures in place and the success of these measures. According to Hope Mizzell, DNR statewide drought coordinator, 29 water systems are asking for mandatory restrictions, with most of these systems reporting an 11-20 percent water-use reduction. Of the water systems surveyed, 104 are asking for voluntary reductions in water use, with most of these seeing less than a 10 percent reduction in use.

Industries in the Pee Dee area of the state are spending significant amounts of money to deal with the drought, according to David Baize of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. Baize estimated that Pee Dee industries are spending hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars on measures such as installment of water-saving devices, digging new wells and building retention ponds and cooling towers.

Jim Witkowski of International Paper, representing the Central Drought Management Committee, said: "We have seen most industries within the Central Drought Management Area take action wherever possible to reduce water use. Most companies have seen significant water-use reduction since the call for voluntary conservation." Witkowski said the International Paper plant in Eastover has reduced its water use by 1.7 million gallons a day.

Wildfire losses continue to grow, according to Ken Cabe, information officer with the S.C. Forestry Commission. Since Jan. 1, Forestry Commission firefighters have responded to more than 4,000 wildfires across the state. These fires damaged or destroyed 77 homes, 120 outbuildings, 75 vehicles and almost 40,000 acres of woods and grasslands. Firefighters say that fires are becoming harder to control, as heavy logs and stumps now ignite and burn intensely.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecast continues to call for below normal rainfall for September through October 2002 in the mid-Atlantic states and southward through North Carolina and northern South Carolina. Hope Mizzell emphasized that even with normal rainfall this fall October and November are traditionally our driest months with an average of 3.42 inches in October and 3.16 inches in November. The CPC forecast calls for normal to above normal precipiation for South Carolina from December through April. Mizzell explained that this forecast is based on the expected development and intensification of the El Nino phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific. A moderate El Nino usually brings South Carolina above normal winter and early spring rainfall.

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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