Drought status removed from 15 South Carolina counties

The S.C. Drought Response Committee met Wednesday, April 25, via conference call to update the drought statuses of all counties in South Carolina.

Recent rains provided sufficient relief from the drought in 15 South Carolina counties. According to Hope Mizzell, South Carolina State Climatologist, winter and early spring rainfall varied throughout the state. Rainfall has been close to normal across the Upstate, whereas portions of the Midlands and central Savannah area reported less than 60% of normal rainfall since December 1. For those wetter areas, the 2 to 3 inches of rain received earlier this week was enough to end the drought. For the drier counties, although the rain was certainly welcome, it was not adequate to completely remove the drought declaration.

The counties that remain in the first level of drought (incipient stage) are Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Dorchester, Edgefield, Hampton, Lexington, McCormick, Richland, and Saluda.

“Wildfire activity has been above average for the month of April, exceeding the 10-year average,” said S.C. Forestry Forest Protection Chief Darryl Jones. “Recent rains will help, and as new growth occurs over the next several weeks, wildfire numbers will begin to decrease. We have also not heard of any significant issues related to drought impacts on trees that were planted over the winter.”

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Senior Hydrologist Scott Harder added that improved streamflow conditions in the Upstate supported the removal of incipient drought for the counties of York, Chester, Union, Fairfield, Laurens, Newberry and Greenwood, as well as the Pee Dee region counties. “Streamflow and groundwater levels in the middle Savannah basin, however, supported keeping this area in the incipient status,” Harder said.

“Given the recent rain spread across our surrounding counties, I was pleased to hear the committee members reached consensus on upgrading the drought status to normal for 7 of 10 counties previously under incipient drought status in the Central Drought region,” said Alan Stuart, Senior Project Manager for Duke Energy. “Counties such as York down to Fairfield and over to Greenwood demonstrate improved conditions and appear to be out of the drought. We will continue to monitor Saluda, Lexington and Richland counties, as they currently remain in an incipient drought status.”

According to Athena Strickland, Technical Services Manager for Domtar Paper and Northeast Drought Committee Member, “the Northeast region is looking good… We have received some much-needed rainfall recently and have an outlook of more to come in the near future. All of the monitored streamflows are in a ‘no drought’ status.” Based on these factors, the entire Northeast region was moved to a ‘normal’ status.”

“The drought status in the Southern Drought Management Area remains unchanged,“ said Andrew Fairey, Chief Operating Officer for Charleston Water System. “Orangeburg, Berkeley and Charleston Counties remained in normal status, due to the recent rainfall. Bamberg, Colleton and Dorchester Counties remained in incipient status due to a lesser amount of rain being received in those areas. All of the local municipal water suppliers continue to have an abundant supply of water. The agriculture and silviculture communities in the southern region have adequate moisture but remain cautious as the growing season approaches.”

West Drought Committee Member Pickens Williams summarized the status of his area as follows: “The West Drought Management Area along the Savannah River from Abbeville County down to Hampton County remain in incipient drought status. The winter and early spring rainfalls were below normal for our region, and the recent one- to two-inch rains earlier this week provided only temporary relief. Some of our soils don’t hold water well, and as the days get hotter the moisture evaporates quickly. The Committee was also concerned that the 8- to 14-day NOAA outlook was for below-normal precipitation.”

The committee will continue to monitor the weather and will meet again in late May.