For the first time since March 2016, all 100 North Carolina counties are free of drought or dry conditions.
“The recent rainfall has brought relief to the state, particularly southwestern North Carolina,” said Linwood Peele, acting chairman of the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council and the state’s Water Supply Planning Branch supervisor. “Streams, groundwater levels and soil moisture have greatly improved, and counties are now experiencing near long-term averages.”
But the relief from drought comes at a cost for some in North Carolina, after torrential downpours from Hurricane Matthew in October and then storms in the first half of 2017 caused extensive flooding across the state.
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Lack of drought conditions could ease the threat of wildfires in the state this summer. While parts of North Carolina were inundated with floodwater following Hurricane Matthew last fall, the western part of the state was battling wildfires that scorched more than 60,000 acres. Firefighters from across the state were brought in to help bring the fires under control in December.
Drought is determined by variables including stream flow, groundwater levels the amount of water in reservoirs, soil moisture and time of year. Those conditions are closely monitored and can change rapidly, especially during hot summer months, which bring higher evaporation rates, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
“During the summer, North Carolina’s rainfall becomes more difficult to forecast,” said Michael Moneypenny, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Raleigh and a member of the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council. “Weather systems are typically weaker at this time, and the bulk of our rainfall comes from scattered shower and thunderstorm activity that is not predicted but pops up during the heat of the day.”
Every week, the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council discusses the state’s drought conditions and makes recommendations reflected on the North Carolina and U.S. Drought Monitor, a map of the country’s drought conditions released every Thursday at 9 a.m. The drought map is produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.