South Carolina’s 2 Extremes: Part of State Recovers From Flood, Other Part in Drought

As one part of South Carolina continues to recover from flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew, another area is suffering a drought.

The Greenville News reports Upstate residents are being asked to conserve by limiting nonessential use of water, such as irrigating lawns and washing cars.

Lake Hartwell is 7 feet below normal; Lake Jocassee is 10 feet below full level and Keowee, 4 feet. And the National Climate Prediction Center forecasts a warmer and drier than normal winter in the South.

A Greenville Water System spokeswoman says voluntary conservation measures could become mandatory if drought conditions deteriorate and require limits on the drinking water drawn from Lake Keowee.

“It’s difficult to convince people to conserve water when a significant portion of South Carolina remains underwater from a hurricane,” spokeswoman Olivia Vassey said.

The state’s Drought Response Committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday. The western half of the Upstate is classified as being in a moderate drought, while the eastern half is in the incipient, or earliest, stage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s drought monitor shows a drier picture than the state’s current assessment. The U.S. monitor considers the Upstate area to be in a severe drought, with a small swath in the southern portion classified as extreme.

Hurricane Matthew dumped more than 15 inches of rain along some parts of South Carolina’s coast. A few areas in the Upstate reported receiving more than an inch of rain from Matthew, but the National Weather Service’s final tally from Oct. 7-9 showed most of the region receiving less than inch or a trace.

The last time the state was left so starkly divided after a major storm dates back to Hurricane Floyd in September 1999, said Hope Mizzell, State Climatologist for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Floyd ended drought conditions in the Lowcountry, but the rain largely bypassed the Upstate. “This is pretty rare to see these two extremes,” said Hope Mizzell said.