June 20, 2008

Report: Most of State Suffering From a Drought


By Natasha Robinson

The Associated Press


Almost all of North Carolina is now in a drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.

The report shows 97 percent of the state in some form of drought, up from 65 percent last week. Conditions are worse in the southwestern part of the state, where seven counties are under "exceptional" drought, the most severe category. Conditions could get worse because the state never recovered from its last drought, state climatologist Ryan Boyles said.

"The hot weather exacerbates the impact" of the drought "and the lack of rain plays into it," Boyles added. "While we had two months of good rainfall, that's not enough to fully bring us out of a drought."

Most communities should be monitoring water usage, Boyles said. The drought affects agriculture and water levels.

"We move to drought when the impact on water and agriculture is beyond what is normally expected," Boyles said. "If we continue to have dry weather this summer, we're prime for the same type of impact as last summer."

Last week's report showed most of eastern North Carolina was classified as abnormally dry. Rainfall totals, though, are relatively low across interior North Carolina, which helped the drought conditions expand eastward.

Streamflows are at record lows, temperatures are high and rain isn't falling, said Woody Yonts, a water resource engineer with the North Carolina Division of Water Resources. "Many of our large lakes are evaporating more water than what's coming in," he said.

Yonts said the state should be proactive on conservation efforts.

The state lost an estimated $500 million in crops to last year's dry spell. Forestry officials said that drought-fueled wildfires charred some 37,000 acres (58 square miles) of land last year - about double the 10-year average.

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The only three counties not suffering from drought are in the northeastern corner of the state.

Originally published by BY NATASHA ROBINSON.

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