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February 23, 2007

Drought Response Committee downgrades to “incipient” status

After receiving reports of improved hydrologic conditions, the South Carolina Drought Response Committee voted Feb. 23 in Columbia to downgrade the Savannah Basin from the "moderate" category to "incipient." The Committee declared a moderate drought on September 20, 2006, and maintained the declaration during the November 8, 2006, conference call. 

Lake levels in Hartwell, Russell, and Thurmond have returned to near normal according to the U.S ArmySavannah River Bluffs Heritage Preserve Corps of Engineers, but without normal rainfall may be at Stage 1 in 14 days. According to Duke Energy lake management manager George Galleher, “We had above average rainfall in November and December, but January saw below average rainfall and as of Feb. 17 we are below average. Duke Energy continues to think of the Keowee-Toxaway Area as being in a drought.”

Reports from forestry and agriculture were cautiously optimistic. According to David Tompkins with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  “Soil moisture is in good shape going into the spring; however, we are dependent on adequate rainfall during the growing season.” Darryl Jones with the S.C. Forestry Commission reported the state is experiencing an average number of fires, but, “We’re just beginning the fire season with another month and half or so ahead of us. We’re busy, but not abnormally so.”

“In the process of moving from moderate to incipient, the DNR will increase its monitoring and notify the members of the committee in two-week intervals about levels, flows, and rainfalls,” said Alfred Vang, director of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Land, Water and Conservation Division. “If there is a trend that appears to be negative, then we would call a meeting of the committee.”

“We want to maintain our vigilance in monitoring this situation,” said State Hydrologist Bud Badr. “Especially as we are beginning to move into the normally drier or reduced rainfall period of the year in South Carolina.”

For more information about drought, visit the Office of State Climatology or contact State Climatologist Hope Mizzell at (803) 734-9568 in Columbia.
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