Thursday, the Drought Monitor elevated six southeastern N.C. counties’ designation from “moderate” to “severe,” its third-highest ranking of five classifications.
Dry conditions also triggered local water use notices, with local providers asking customers to curtail nonessential use to mitigate increasing demand, exacerbated by the ongoing drought. Drought categories are determined by streamflow, groundwater levels, water available in reservoirs, soil moisture, season, and other factors, according to the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council.
Each Tuesday, DMAC staff meet to review conditions from the previous seven-day period. New classifications are updated every Thursday. In making the determination, local forecasts are not accounted for.
Cumulative rainfall in the Wilmington region is still 5.6 inches below normal over the past 90 days, according to National Weather Service meterologist Jordan Baker. That’s about 50% of typical rainfall amounts, at about 40% over the past two months.
From Tuesday at midnight to Thursday at midnight, the Wilmington region picked up 1.83 inches of rain. As of Friday afternoon, the region had added another 1.8 inches, according to Baker. In April, the region had just 0.69 inches and in May, it had 1.05 inches.
“So we’ve had more rain in the past two days than the past two months,” Baker said.
In 2018 –– the year Hurricane Florence hit –– the Wilmington region broke its 141-year-old rainfall record by 18 inches, soaking up 102.4 inches of rain. The following year brought on a periodic drought in the spring and summer, with the third-driest month on record in May 2019. By August 2019, year-to-date rainfall totals were the lowest-ever recorded at that point in the year.
Last year, conditions normalized somewhat compared to years prior, but still ended 21% wetter-than-normal and was the third-warmest year on record.
As for the recent bout of precipitation, Baker said it hasn’t reached the entire southeast. Whiteville, for example, still hadn’t seen more than half an inch of rain this week as of Friday afternoon. “It’s not been a uniform distribution,” he said.
Even with the recent rain, Baker said the drought designation may not go away entirely. “It may improve but I don’t think it’ll be taken out,” he said.
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