Much Of South Carolina Now In Drought
Nine months after October’s historic floods, parts of South Carolina are in a drought. The state Drought Response Committee designated most of the central, south and western counties in threat of a drought Friday. Four counties in the Northwestern part of the state are much drier and are considered in moderate drought. Dennis Chastain from Pickens has been on this committee for 14 years.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a drought cycle develop and deteriorate as quickly as this has,” he said. “Pastures are not just dry, they are scorched. The grass actually looks dead.”
Chastain expects the dry weather to hurt farmers most. Glenn Thomas with the United States Farm Service Agency is already reporting some growers are struggling with their soybean crop. Thomas works with farmers in the Northwestern corner of the state.
“They’re withering right now with this heat,” he said. “We are just having a hard time right now.”
Over the last month most of the state has had below normal levels of rain and hotter temperatures. Those conditions lead to drier soil, leaves and trees, which to Forest Protection Chief Darryl Jones means more fire fuel.
“From a firefighter standpoint, this time of year being this dry is not good for us,” he said. “We are seeing more activity and all of our meteorologists are predicting and active season.”
That forecast comes on the heels of a year with the lowest number of wildfires since the state began keeping tabs in 1947. 2015 was one of the wettest year in recorded history for the Carolinas, according to the National Weather Service. South Carolina Climatologist Hope Mizzell said the drought designation for nearly 70 percent of the state wasn’t expected given how saturated much of South Carolina was from flooding just nine months ago.
“Considering how very wet we were throughout the fall and even carrying into early winter,” she said. “But we all recognize how quickly we can go from a dry period to a drought, especially this time of year.”
September 2015 was the last time any part of the state was in a drought. After nearly a week of heavy rain in the first week of October the entire state was downgraded to normal.
Jasper, Beaufort and 12 other counties in the Pee Dee Region are excluded from the drought designation. The South Carolina Drought Response Committee will continue to monitor conditions.