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Polk raised back to ‘extreme’ drought level

It didn&squo;t take much for Polk County to return to &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought conditions, the second worst level of drought.

According to the latest federal drought maps, eastern Polk County moved from &dquo;severe&dquo; drought back to &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought in the last week of April, and the rest of Polk County followed in the first week of May.

Drought conditions had been steadily improving through the beginning of this year as Polk County moved from &dquo;exceptional,&dquo; the highest level of drought, to &dquo;severe,&dquo; the third highest level. But a recent dry stretch allowed Polk to slip back to &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought.

For the year Polk County is about 2.5 inches below normal precipitation. That comes after finishing 2007 with a precipitation deficit of nearly 23 inches.

State and local officials have warned that the drought is not over, and could worsen rapidly, particularly if the region experiences a dry, hot summer as some have forecasted.

According to observations for the National Weather Service in Tryon, the area received 4.33 inches of rainfall in April, just slightly below the average for the month. But the area has run a deficit in each of the first four months of the year. Conditions could improve if current forecasts are accurate. Improved chances of rainfall are forecasted over the next 10 days.

The federal drought map currently shows 13 states in North Carolina experiencing &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought, while 25 are at &dquo;severe,&dquo; 21 are at &dquo;moderate,&dquo; and 35 are considered &dquo;abnormally dry.&dquo; The state currently does not have any counties listed under &dquo;exceptional&dquo; drought conditions.