Reduced wildfire threat, above-average rainfall leads to lifting the drought declaration
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee met yesterday via conference call to update the drought status of the counties in South Carolina. They voted to declare the entire state drought-free. Back in December, the committee had placed 34 counties in the state, including Union County, in incipient drought status. However, due to above-average rainfall totals in December and January, they were able to remove the incipient drought status from all 34 counties.
One reason they had cited for the drought was a concern for wildfires, but the SC Forestry Commission reported that the threat had diminished over the last 30 days. The Forestry Commission reported responding to 72 wildfires since the start of the year, which is 50% fewer than the 10-year average. The wildfire forecast over the next three months is still expected to be greater than usual due to the ongoing effects of La Niña.
According to State Climatologist Hope Mizzell, portions of the state have received 90-150% of the normal rainfall (7-15”) over the last 60 days, especially the counties in the central Savannah region and Midlands. The coastal areas have been the driest, but they had above-normal rainfall totals heading into winter.
Although a couple of streamflow gauges in the Catawba-Wateree basin, Greenville, and Pickens counties still show dry conditions, the recent rainfall and snowfall have improved streamflows in most of the state. Lake levels for major reservoirs in the state are maintained close to normal, and the groundwater levels are at or above normal.
The committee may meet again in March to see if any of the conditions have changed.