Part of Polk returns to worst drought level

Published 11:56 am Friday, November 14, 2008

At least part of Polk County has returned to the worst level of drought, according to the latest federal drought map.

The map indicates that the southwestern portion of Polk County is suffering &dquo;exceptional&dquo; drought, while the rest of the county is experiencing &dquo;extreme&dquo; drought, the second highest level.

Very little rain fell in the area in recent weeks, although rain is in the forecast for the next few days.

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The exceptional drought area reached Clay, Jackson, Macon and Transylvania counties, along with the southern end of Henderson County.

N.C. Gov. Mike Easley is urging water conservation, noting that conditions may not improve much through the fall.

&dquo;Autumn is usually one of our driest times of the year, so there is little chance of getting enough rain to pull these counties out of the drought before hot weather and increased water demands return next year,&dquo; Easley said.&bsp; &dquo;Conditions could get worse before they improve, so in western North Carolina especially, people should be saving water wherever they can.&dquo;

In addition to the four counties in exceptional drought, 10 counties are in extreme drought, 13 counties are in severe drought, 29 counties are in a moderate drought, 17 counties are abnormally dry and the remaining 27 counties are in no category at all. Abnormally dry conditions indicate that drought is not present but could return without adequate rainfall.

Many residents continue to heed the governor&squo;s calls for water conservation. More than 3.14 million people, or 73 percent of the people who receive water from systems the state tracks, must adhere to voluntary or mandatory water use restrictions, according to the state division of water resources. Tryon remains under mandatory water restrictions.

Much of Upstate South Carolina has remained at the exceptional drought level since this summer and the area with the worst drought conditions has expanded recently.