Much of the Midlands under severe or extreme drought conditions

Published: Oct. 8, 2019 at 6:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - If it feels like it hasn’t rained in a while, that’s because it hasn’t. And that’s why a good portion of people in our state are living in areas under severe or extreme drought conditions.

According to the US Drought Portal, over 2.5 million people in South Carolina are experiencing some sort of drought.

837,000 more are living in abnormally dry areas.

That adds up to 58% of the state's population.

The worst of the conditions are right here in the Midlands, where the US Drought Portal Map shows stage 2 and stage 3 drought conditions.

In a stage 2 or “severe” drought, the number of fires increases, and fires are more intense River and lake levels are low, which impacts boating. Fisheries are impacted, and duck hunting areas close.

In a stage 3 or “extreme” drought, soil moisture is low, winter crops are slow to germinate. Burn bans begin, and small aquatic species are stressed.

Hope Mizzell, the State Climatologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources says the situation may even be worse than the stats indicate.

"Certainly (it's worse) for agriculture in South Carolina. Based on what we're seeing in the numbers, it looks like we have more areas that should be at a higher level of drought. But again, that's based on our information- and the US Drought Monitor is a national map."

Mizzell says our state has what’s known as a Drought Response Committee, which looks at 7 indicators including the US Drought Indicator to determine drought conditions. Their next meeting is on October 17th.

She said the last time our state experienced a drought this severe, was January of 2017.

And heading into fall, Mizzell said the reason for even more concern because October and November are typically our driest months.

Mizzell said tropical activity would help alleviate drought conditions, but currently, we are past peak Hurricane season, and no storms are on the immediate horizon.

All of it makes for a dry and dangerous situation, elevating the wildfire risk and hurting farmer’s crops.

According to data, Mizzell says September was the 16th driest in South Carolina in 125 years.

She notes that 7 stations where precipitation is recorded in the Midlands and Upstate, recorded no rain in September.

Making matters worse, this was the 4th warmest September in our state in 125 years.

A perfect storm, without any water. A situation that does not appear to be changing anytime soon.

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