Most of South Carolina is now in the initial stages of drought under updates made by the state’s Drought Response Committee on Friday.
During a conference call meeting, the committee deemed that 28 counties were in the “incipient,” or lowest, drought stage. However, four Upstate counties — Abbeville, Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens — were deemed in the second level of “moderate” drought.
State Climatologist Hope Mizzell said it’s unusual for an area to go from no drought to moderate, but conditions have been exceptionally dry in the state’s northwest corner for the past month. “Conditions have rapidly deteriorated at these extreme temperatures, which has increased the evaporation and caused low and decreasing soil moisture,” she told South Carolina Radio Network after the meeting. “That has created a situation that’s often referred to as a ‘flash drought.'”
She said most of Anderson County has not reported measurable rainfall in more than a month.
Other committee members agreed with making the sudden change. “I’ve been on the drought committee a long time, and I’ve never seen a drought cycle develop and deteriorate so quickly,” said Dennis Chastain, a committee member from Pickens. “In my opinion three things account for this; the rainfall deficit, the abnormally high temperatures and the wind, which has significantly increased evaporation. All three factors have worked together to quickly exasperate the drought.”
Brad Boozer, who represents the state Department of Agriculture on the committee, said some crops are withering and the first cutting of hay has been poor. Boozer said some farmers reported that late corn and soybeans plantings have been failing to germinate due to lack of rainfall. Mizzell said those agriculture-related concerns prompted the unusual step of moving the four Upstate counties directly into moderate status, skipping the “incipient” status.
The remaining 14 counties that were not placed in any drought stage are those in the Pee Dee and Beaufort and Jasper counties along the state’s southern coast.