Rains offer a little relief from dry conditions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Steve Huffman
This weekend’s rain could help ease a mid-winter dry spell that’s got much of the state facing drought conditions.
“It’ll definitely be beneficial, but it’s not going to put an end to the dry conditions,” said Terry Benthall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service outside Greenville, S.C.
“We need several more of these.”
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources reported earlier this week that more than half the state is suffering a drought.
In all, 63 counties are experiencing moderate or severe drought conditions. The previous week, 39 counties reported such conditions. The last time more than half the state was reporting some form of drought was in mid-November.
Locally, conditions aren’t nearly as severe as they are in the coastal plain, but it’s still dry.
Benthall said that since Jan. 1, only 3.7 inches of rain have fallen on Rowan and surrounding counties. The normal precipitation total for the period is 7.27 inches.
The normal annual rainfall for the area is 43.5 inches, and Rowan County was almost 5 inches below par last year.
The rain that started Friday and that’s expected to continue through Sunday could come close to boosting Rowan County’s rainfall total for 2009 to near-normal levels.
“You’ll definitely get 1 to 2 inches and you may get a little more,” Benthall said.
He said Rowan County’s conditions are far favorable to South Carolina’s Upstate, where extreme drought conditions exist. Benthall said that over the past year, that region is 16 inches short of its typical annual rainfall.
“Your rivers are up pretty good,” Benthall said. “You’re not in bad shape.”
Jeff Jones, planning and research manager for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, agreed. He said that while the flow of the Yadkin and other area rivers is only about half its normal, the flow has been holding steady since mid-January.
“They’re looking good,” Jones said of the region’s rivers. “We’re not close to a problem, yet.”
Jason Walser, executive director of The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, said much the same. He said the properties managed by the landtrust aren’t close to being affected by any drought.
“We worry about endangered species not being able to get water,” Walser said. “For now, we’re in pretty good shape.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources offers the following tips for water conservation.
For indoors:
– Install a low-flow shower head; turn off water when brushing teeth; do only full loads of laundry, wash dishes by hand and repair leaking toilets.
For outdoors:
– Water plants early in the day; plant only native grasses and shrubs; fix leaks in hose connections; use mulch to keep soil moist and collect and recycle rainwater.