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Polk lowered another level to ‘severe’ drought status

Polk County appears to be coming out of one of the worst droughts on record almost as quickly as it got into it.

Polk County was dropped one level to &dquo;severe&dquo; drought status, according to this week&squo;s federal drought map.

Polk is now one of 50 counties in the state at the severe drought level, while just 12 counties remain at the higher &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought level. The state has no counties currently at the highest &dquo;exceptional&dquo; drought level, which Polk was previously at for several months.

Drought conditions worsened rapidly last year in Polk County and much of the rest of the state. Polk experienced a very dry stretch from April through November, finishing the year with a precipitation deficit of nearly 23 inches.

Since then rainfall has been closer to normal and conditions have been steadily improving.

According to observations for the National Weather Service in Tryon, the area received 6.06 inches of precipitation in March, the most it&squo;s had for that month in the past five years.

The area has also had significant precipitation at the start of this month.

Despite the improvement, N.C. Gov. Mike Easley continues to urge water conservation.

He sent a letter to local officials this week reminding them that the drought is not over and a hot, dry summer is still possible.

&dquo;We were fortunate to receive rainfall in March and early April which has helped significantly,&dquo; said Easley. &dquo;However, even though reservoir levels have risen, our groundwater resources, which help keep our streams flowing, are still extremely low. This makes North Carolina very vulnerable as summer approaches.&dquo;

The Town of Columbus recently lifted its mandatory water restrictions, but Tryon is maintaining its mandatory restrictions.

Tryon is pursuing emergency water projects to provide alternative water sources, including Hender-sonville, Columbus and Tryon&squo;s former mountain water source.