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Rainfall deficit brings severe drought to four southwestern N.C. counties


Severe drought has returned to North Carolina for the first time since September 2015 as rainfall deficits continue to impact the southwestern mountains.

Portions of Macon, Transylvania, Jackson and Haywood counties were upgraded from moderate drought to severe drought due to lack of adequate rainfall, according to the most recent federal drought map, which is updated every Thursday. Severe drought is the second highest of the four drought categories.

 “The counties in the southwestern mountain area of the state have been experiencing dry conditions for several months due to lower than normal precipitation, which impacts soil moisture levels, stream flows and groundwater levels,” said Rebecca Ward, extension climatologist with the State Climate Office of North Carolina. “If these dry conditions continue, this area may see additional impacts that could affect agriculture.”

Ten other counties in North Carolina are experiencing moderate drought, and 22 counties are considered abnormally dry, which means they are not experiencing drought but that drought could emerge in those areas if dry conditions persist.

Members of a state drought council conduct a conference call each week to discuss the impact of rainfall and provide recommendations for the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The U.S. Drought Monitor uses the council’s advice to generate a map depicting areas experiencing drought, abnormally dry and normal conditions. The drought map is released every Thursday and posted to the state’s official drought website at

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Drought categories are based on streamflow, groundwater levels, the amount of water stored in reservoirs, soil moisture, the time of year and other relevant factors for assessing the extent and severity of dry conditions.

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