CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Drought conditions are beginning to worsen for some counties across the state including Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, and Williamsburg counties.
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee upgraded the drought status to “Severe Drought” in most of Colleton County and extended the “Moderate Drought” status further toward Interstate 95.
According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, 99.2% of the state is experiencing “Abnormally Dry” conditions, 62.8% is in “Moderate Drought,” and 10.4% is in “Severe Drought.”
An upgrade to the drought status may come as a surprise to some Lowcountry residents, especially given the heavy precipitation seen across the area this week.
But, Storm Team 2 meteorologist Josh Marthers said this week’s rainfall has not been factored in yet as the monitor is released every Thursday.
“Obviously over the last two days we’ve had a lot of rain, about one to four inches depending on where you are,” he explained. “So that most likely hasn’t been a huge factor in this week’s, but it’ll be a factor in next week’s.”
On June 29, Charleston International Airport saw nearly 2 inches of rain, setting a new record. For the month, CHS has seen a little over 6 inches of rain, which is about a quarter of an inch less than normal.
The airport has seen nearly 17.5 inches of precipitation to date in 2022, a deficit of about 5 inches.
Despite being down about 5 inches for the year, a look at the previous 365 days indicates a rain deficit of almost two feet in several parts of the state, including some of the Lowcountry.
“The moderate drought is here because we’ve been dry for a long time,” Marthers said. “We’re not going to wipe that out with an event like this where you have one to four inches of rain.”
Storm Team 2 meteorologist Olivia Lawrence explains that heavy bouts of rain are less beneficial to decreasing the drought than steady rainfall.
The best comparison is the concept of a sponge! When you have a dry sponge sitting on the counter, if you quickly pour a lot of water on it, it will slowly absorb some, and the rest will spill over onto the counter. But, if you gradually pour water on it, it will absorb and hold that water until it is completely saturated. The same applies to the surface layers of the ground.
“If it’s a slow steady long rain, it can slowly seep into the lower levels of the ground but, if it’s one fast one, it can’t all go into the ground at once so it has to go somewhere and becomes runoff or flooding” she explained.
While the impacts of drought vary by state, typically moderate drought conditions can cause some damage to crops and pastures as well as low water levels in streams, reservoirs, and wells. Severe drought, on the other hand, will likely cause crop and pasture losses and water shortages.
In addition, drought conditions can increase fire risk, but Marthers said the Lowcountry should not be too worried about widespread fire potential during the Fourth of July weekend.
“The top layer on the ground is wet”
“With high humidity, because this is a tropical air mass, already it would be tough to set something on fire because it’s so humid,” he said. “But, then you wet the fuel as well so I wouldn’t be terribly concerned about things getting out of hand.”
Storm Team 2 said the drought status may ease slightly next week, but likely will not move the needle too much.
“I think the moderate drought area probably stays put for now, maybe shrinks a little bit, we’ll see,” Marthers said. “But it’s a little too early to tell.”