Polk County back at highest drought level

Published 3:17 pm Monday, June 23, 2008

Most or all of the improvement seen in drought conditions locally over the past several months has apparently been erased by recent hot, dry weather.

Polk County has been raised back to &dquo;exceptional&dquo; drought conditions, the highest level of drought, according to the latest federal drought map.

Polk is nearly at the center of an &dquo;exceptional&dquo; drought area along the border with South Carolina. Parts of Rutherford, Henderson, Jackson, Cleveland, McDowell and Transylvania counties are also listed at the worst level of drought.&bsp; Nearly all of the state is back at some level of drought, including 33 counties at &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought, 16 at &dquo;severe&dquo; and 41 at &dquo;moderate.&dquo;

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Polk was previously raised to &dquo;exceptional&dquo; drought last October and remained there into March of this year. Following near normal rainfall through the winter, Polk was lowered one level to &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought in March and lowered another level to &dquo;severe&dquo; drought in April.

But conditions deteriorated quickly through a very dry May and first half of June. Polk received just 2.22 inches of rain in May and has received less than an inch so far in June. Extremely hot temperatures have accelerated evaportation and caused conditions to deteriorate even quicker.

Regional officials have said the hot, dry weather in late spring is particularly troubling since water supplies were already depleted following last year&squo;s extremely dry conditions. Tryon is one of many water supplies in the region that remain on mandatory water restrictions.