It may be drizzling today, but the unusual lack of rainfall and high temperatures have pushed parts of the state into drought for the first time in more than two years, says the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
And though most of Buncombe County remains only in the “abnormally dry” category, parts of Henderson, McDowell and the majority of Polk and Rutherford counties are experiencing moderate drought.
The drought affects 20 counties — 14.7 percent of the state’s land area, with 51 additional counties experiencing abnormally dry conditions — 65 percent of land area in North Carolina.
Drought categories are based on streamflow, groundwater levels, the amount of water stored in reservoirs, soil moisture, the time of year and other factors assessing the extent and severity of dry conditions, reads a press release from DENR.
In Asheville, according to the State Climate Office, temperatures have risen, at times, higher than the normal average range for June by 10 degrees.
“Although we still haven’t had any reports of public water supplies being affected, we are seeing impacts to streams, groundwater levels and inflows to reservoirs,” said Bob Stea, chairman of the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council, in the release. “People should follow the water restrictions put in place by their local water systems.”
Western North Carolina’s water supply has not been affected, but click here for a map of areas under water conservation statuses throughout the state.
The dry areas across the state are home to 80.6 percent of the population — 7.8 million North Carolinians, with 2.6 million affected by drought.
As dry, windy conditions persist, the N.C. Forest Service is encouraging people to use caution when burning leaves, sticks and other yard vegetation, writes DENR.
“For many locations across the state, this is the warmest week on record ending June 23,” said Rebecca Cumbie, extension climatologist at the N.C. State Climate Office and a member of the DMAC, as quoted by DENR. “The latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center indicates increased chances of below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for much of the state for July through September. If high temperatures continue, paired with lack of rainfall, conditions could worsen quickly.”