Drought over in all of NC

RALEIGH The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced that the latest federal drought map shows widespread rainfall in recent weeks brought improvements statewide, most notably in 14 mountain counties that had been North Carolina's only area experiencing drought.

"Certainly, we're encouraged by the rainfall we've seen," said Dee Freeman, DENR secretary said in a statement Thursday. "But it's safe to say we're cautiously optimistic about what this means for the weeks and months ahead. There's no reason people should not try to conserve water whenever possible."

Of the state's 100 counties, 53 remain abnormally dry, which means an area could return to drought status without adequate rainfall.

The drought map also showed that the additional rainfall has created improvements statewide, with 47 counties experiencing normal conditions for this time of year, up from 36 counties last week.

The latest map gives signs drought has abated across much of the Southeast.

As of April, only about a third of the South faced moderate or worse drought conditions, roughly half the area that was dry a year ago, and less than 10 percent was in severe drought. An unusually wet March that flooded homes around the region also had a silver lining: Forecasters say the drenching helped refill lakes and dry water tables, capping a monthslong drought recovery.

The National Weather Service is also predicting rain over much of the state through the weekend.

"At least the way things look for right now, and over the next week or two, we're not looking to have any dry weather," said state climatologist Ryan Boyles. "And, hopefully, if we can continue to have at least normal rainfall patterns through the summer, the usual afternoon and evening thunderstorms that we get during summertime, we shouldn't have any problems this summer."

The drought of 2007-08 is considered the worst in North Carolina since recordkeeping began on such conditions in 1895. The drought began Feb. 13, 2007, moving from the mountains to the coast as a lack of rainfall depleted streamflows and reservoirs to record low levels. The drought prompted many towns to enact mandatory and voluntary water conservation restrictions. Many communities have left the restrictions in effect.

Boyles said early signs suggest those communities will get to relax.

"So, while we can't say for certain that we're not going to have any drought this summer, we're certainly more hopeful than we've been in a couple of years," he said.

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