Committee leaves SC under drought status despite recent rains

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- All of South Carolina remains in a moderate drought despite heavy rains in some areas over the past 9 days.

The South Carolina's Drought Response Committee agreed to maintain the moderate status for most of the state while upgrading the Upstate to the second stage of drought. Most of the Midlands stayed the same, but Newberry, Fairfield and Saluda Counties were upgraded from incipient to moderate Thursday.

State Climatologist Hope State Climatologist Hope Mizzell noted during the past 9 days, parts of Richland County got as much as nine inches of rain and most areas of the state saw about an inch. Columbia-Owens Airport received more than 9.33 inches of rain over a seven day period while one storm produced a near 50 year event for the Univeristy of South Carolina rain gauge.

Rainfall in the Greenville area is now about normal for the year while the Columbia area is about 3.5 inches below normal for the year. In Charleston, however, the shortage is more than 8 inches. Marion and Horry Counties were the only two areas whose drought status was decreased. Both counties had previously been listed in a severe drought.

Little rain is expected in the next 10 days. The longterm outlook is not favorable due to the La Nina pattern, which traditionally equates to a warmer, drier pattern for the state.

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Committee members considered a two-level jump to severe in some counties earlier this month, but decided to monitor the situation instead. In a phone conversation earlier this week with Justin Kier, Mizzell noted that while some areas received large amounts of rainfall other basins around the state did not.

Duke Energy officials predict a long term drought could continue at least through the fall and possibly the winter. Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie benefitted from recent rain as water levels were dangerously close to the 2007 drought. Local farmers and foresters are closely monitoring the situation for details.

The committee plans to meet again in three weeks. Members said the drought status in some areas, particularly the central Savannah River Valley, could be raised to severe if there is no relief.

You can always get the latest forecast on our SkyWACH Weather Page.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)