State not in trouble from drought yet

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COLUMBIA - Almost all of South Carolina is in a drought - but not the Savannah River Basin.

The state's Drought Response Committee said Tuesday that most areas of the state are in the earliest stages of drought.

"The concern is for the future," said committee member David Tompkins, the director of the state farmers markets' agricultural services division. "We're not in trouble right now."

Indeed, committee members said the state's rivers, lakes and public water supplies are not endangered.

The drought declaration is based on:

- Three of four drought models that show parts of South Carolina in a moderate drought, with two models showing portions in a severe drought as well.

- Signs that agriculture already is being hit. Mr. Tompkins said farmers are irrigating earlier than normal this year.

- Concerns from the forestry industry that conditions are right for an active fire season.

The mountains haven't "greened up" as much as they should have by this point, said Darryl Jones, forest protection chief for the South Carolina Forestry Commission.

Mr. Jones joined the meeting via phone because he was in Georgia fighting wildfires.

South Carolina is OK for now, but, he said: "There's a huge amount of potential for it to get worse."

"Potential" is the key word.

State climatologist Hope Mizzell said the state easily could get a sustained period of decent rainfall that would correct the situation.

That could begin this week: South Carolina is expected to receive between a half-inch and 1.5 inches of rain in the next five days.

By declaring a drought, though, the state can begin its information campaign: notifying affected agencies and the public that a more severe drought is possible, Ms. Mizzell said.

The committee plans to reassess the situation within a few weeks.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or kirsten.singleton@morris.com.

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