COLUMBIA, S.C. — Williamsburg County is among the 15 counties upgraded to incipient drought status by the South Carolina Drought Response Committee.

While Williamsburg and Georgetown counties were among the counties upgraded to incipient in a May 14 conference call, there was less consistent support by the indicators for the declaration. The indicators used for such a declaration include the 60-Day Percent of Normal Rainfall, the U.S. Drought Monitor, Palmer Drought Severity Index and the Crop Moisture Index.

Rainfall coverage in Williamsburg has been highly variable with some areas receiving adequate rain and others not enough.

“While most of Williamsburg County experienced a wet winter, dry conditions have persisted for a couple of months now,” Blake Badger of Williamsburg County Farm Service Agency said in a media advisory. “Some portions of the area were too wet to plant corn just a month ago, but little precipitation has fallen. Field activity is at one of the high points for the year. A continued lack of moisture will have negative impacts on crops.”

A drought also brings a higher risk of forest fires.

“While fire activity was low in April, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index indicates that dry fuels are present in some areas, particularly in the Southern Drought Management Area,” said Darryl Jones, the South Carolina Forestry Commission forest protection chief. “With the low rainfall predicted for the next few weeks, we expect to see initial attack for wildfires increase in late May and into June. Fighting wildfires when we have high temperatures is very difficult and creates additional risks for firefighters, and we encourage everyone to be very careful if they choose to conduct outdoor burning during dry periods.”

Below-normal rainfall levels over the past 60 days have resulted in below-normal streamflow levels for much of the southern part of the state, said Scott Harder, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources senior hydrologist. However, heavy rainfall throughout winter into spring for portions of the Pee Dee and Upstate has led to record high groundwater levels at a few monitoring sites.

As designated by the South Carolina Drought Response Act, Incipient is the first level of drought, followed by Moderate, Severe, and Extreme.

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