Some relief in sight as part of county moves into severe drought status

Published 12:02 am Sunday, December 5, 2021

SALISBURY — A large part of western Rowan County had its current drought classification raised from moderate to severe on Tuesday, but there may be some relief this week.

The North Carolina Climate Office uses five categories to define dry conditions in the state, ranging from abnormally dry on the low end to exceptional drought at the highest level. Last week, large sections of the state moved up from abnormally dry to moderate drought, with several pockets increasing to severe drought. Part of the western corner of the state started to see dry conditions as well.

The drought comes as the county and state put in place burn bans and after a fire on Pilot Mountain burned more than 1,000 acres. Firefighters say the blaze is 100% contained.

“We have had a long stretch of really consistent dry weather,” Rowan County Weather’s Steve Monday said, adding the area could see a dry winter following the pattern of the weather phenomenon La Niña.

Monday said people should expect to see normal effects of dry weather: water levels will get lower and more zaps from static electricity. Dry skin will be more of an issue for some.

However, Monday said rain is likely to come this week. The National Weather Service forecasts a 40% chance of rain on Tuesday climbing to 70% that evening. Rain is likely to stick around on Wednesday with some more showers possible toward the end of the week.

Monday said it is good drier weather is here when less water is being used. Outdoor water activities are gone for the year and cars are being washed less.

Salisbury Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer said the utility has a water shortage response plan, but it has not hit any supply thresholds that would trigger those responses.

Behmer said the Yadkin-Peedee River Basin provides a massive supply and the utility takes a small fraction of it. It also puts in almost as much as it takes out.

“We’re a small straw in a giant river basin,” Behmer said.

If conditions worsen, there is a possibility of moving to an alert status and then to voluntary water restriction. Behmer said the utility has never had to implement a mandatory restriction.

Behmer said the Catawba River basin is being more impacted than the Yadkin, and source water coming from the Wilkes County area is not experiencing the same dry conditions as most of the state.