Storms said to bring end to SC drought - FOX Carolina 21

Storms said to bring end to SC drought

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PELZER, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Good news for South Carolina - state officials said we're no longer in a drought. 

The SC Drought response committee said they've downgraded from moderate to no drought for 22 counties and from incipient to no drought for the remaining counties.

"The committee usually avoids downgrading the drought two levels, but in today's decision there was consistent and overwhelming support from all the drought indicators combined with a high probability for above normal precipitation in the upcoming weeks," said Chris Bickley of the committee in a press release.

The news and the heavy rains have thrilled farmers like Tom Trantham of Happy Cow Creamery.

'I'm looking forward to a great year," said Trantham.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said it's the first time since June 2010 the state has been in a drought-free category.  

Evidence of the extra moisture is in some lake levels in the Upstate as well. The National Weather Service says Lake Hartwell is now at 659 feet, just a foot under what would be considered a full pool.

FOX Carolina Meteorologist Andy Wood said the weekend's rain made it fill up fast.

"Considering the size of Lake Hartwell, going up a foot in a day's time is big, especially considering we got three inches of rain yesterday and smashed the rainfall record," said Wood.

But not everyone feels the entire state is in the clear just yet. Duke Energy announced they don't agree with the state's findings that the drought is over. Duke Energy's Ryan Mosier wrote to FOX Carolina in an email:

"We recognize the drought response committee's decision may reflect overall conditions statewide; however, Duke Energy is most focused on the river basins where we operate reservoirs, and those local conditions can vary.

"In addition to our recommendations at the meeting, we discussed our perspective that a statewide decision removing drought might be confusing to water users in the Upper Savannah where local conditions still meet Stage 2. Neighbors on Lake Keowee are still limited to irrigating lawns on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and Lake Jocassee has improved from recent rainfall but is still 14 feet below full pond.

"On the Upper Savannah, the interim drought plan that Greenville Water, Seneca Light & Water and Duke Energy voluntarily implemented in January 2012 is in Stage 2. Because of this collaboration, we have been able to conserve more than 7 million gallons a day in Lake Keowee that otherwise would have been used.

"These basinwide response plans help ensure common responses to defined conditions, such as stream flows, reservoir storage and the U.S. drought monitor. These response plans require Duke Energy's hydro operations to become increasingly more conservative as drought stages progress. Conventional hydro stations are some of our most cost-effective and cleanest generating sources. We sacrifice that, however, during times of significant drought, since we recognize the important role these reservoirs play in meeting drinking water needs, industrial and agricultural water needs, recreation and habitat."

FOX Carolina meteorologists said summer and fall are the driest times of the year, but we are five inches over the rainfall surplus this year, so if we do get back down to a drought, it's going to take some time.

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