Although rain fell Tuesday and is expected again this weekend, the summer’s dry, hot weather has been a struggle for South Carolina as crops bake in the sun, boat ramps close and state officials worry about the future.
Temperatures routinely have soared in some places to above 100 degrees and water levels are down in many areas, particularly in places surrounding Columbia. Some spots have experienced only a fraction of the rainfall they normally get during the summer, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
Columbia has received about 4.2 inches of rain since mid-June, which is about 54 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the Department of Natural Resources. That isn’t as bad as some areas, such as the Catawba and Edisto river basins, but it’s still notable, DNR officials say.
Drought-like conditions are resulting not only from a lack of rain, but also high temperatures that have helped evaporate water. Overall, Columbia temperatures have risen to 100 or above 15 times since June 1, according to the DNR. That makes the summer of 2015 one of the hottest in two decades, the DNR reports.
The S.C. Drought Response Committee recently upgraded the drought status of the entire state. Most lake levels are down. Corn, soybean and peanut crops in Marlboro County have begun to suffer, the committee reported earlier this month.
On Tuesday, Duke Energy asked people who water flowers, grass and crops from the Catawba-Wateree lakes to cut back on their usage because of drought conditions in the Carolinas. Lake users should limit watering to Tuesdays and Saturdays, the company says.
Lake Wateree near Camden is included among the 11 reservoirs.
“Despite recent rainfall, the region continues to experience dry conditions,” said Joe Hall, Duke’s lake services director. “We want to thank residents for supporting water conservation efforts and ask everyone withdrawing water for irrigation from one of the 11 Catawba-Wateree lakes to limit watering to the two designated days per week.’’
Water levels have dropped enough in some reservoirs, including Lake Wylie near Rock Hill, that the power company has closed several boat ramps it manages.
“Boaters and other recreational users are encouraged to exercise caution and examine their surroundings for potential hazards when on area lakes and waterways,” Duke’s news release said. “Additional hazards can be present just below the water’s surface due to the lower lake levels.”
Winnsboro, in the area where Duke is asking for voluntary lake water restrictions, has had only 1.5 inches of rain since June 15, about 27 percent of normal, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“That’s about a fourth of what they should normally have,’’ state climatologist Hope Mizzell said.
Dry weather also has lowered water levels in some rivers. The Edisto and Catawba river basins are among those feeling the effects, according to the DNR. Some creeks have come close to running dry, the agency said.
Mizzell said parts of the state are expected to get rain this weekend, as Columbia did Tuesday afternoon. Weather forecasts show a more than 50 percent chance of precipitation Friday and Saturday. Mizzell said the rain will help but “it’s not drought busting rainfall.’’