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Rain welcome, but much more is needed to end NC's drought

The Nov. 16 U.S. Drought Monitor map shows drought conditions across most of North Carolina, including extreme drought in nine western counties.
US Drought Monitor
The Nov. 16 U.S. Drought Monitor map shows drought conditions across most of North Carolina, including extreme drought in nine western counties.

It's finally raining again in North Carolina, but will it be enough to end the drought that's affecting most of the state?

The National Weather Service predicts total rainfall of up to 2 inches before Thanksgiving from Charlotte to Raleigh, less in the mountains. That's the most rain we've seen since August. But meteorologist Brad Panovich of WCNC-TV said it will take a lot more to make up for the lack of rain in the past few months.

"We need 7 inches of rain over 30 days to end the drought," Panovich said. "But in the mountains, you're looking at anywhere from as little as 8.5 to almost 11 inches of rain over a 30-day period to end the drought. So when we see this rain today and people go, 'Oh, that's it,' we're not going to get anything remotely close to that."

Panovich spoke Tuesday morning on WFAE's "Charlotte Talks" during a discussion of drought and wildfires in North Carolina.

Charlotte had more than an inch of rain as of midday Tuesday. Mountain areas got less.

Most of the state is in some level of drought, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor advisory. At least nine counties in southwestern North Carolina are in extreme drought. Thirty more, including the Charlotte and Hickory areas, are in severe drought, and almost all the rest of the state is classified as moderate drought or abnormally dry.

Meanwhile, this week's rain may help slightly, but crews are still trying to control wildfires in several North Carolina mountain counties.

The Collett Ridge fire in Cherokee County has burned about 5,500 acres and was about 80% contained as of last weekend. The 1,900-acre Black Bear fire in Haywood County is now about 42% contained. And a fire that broke out Saturday night at Sauratown Mountain in Stokes County has burned 700 acres and is about 41% contained.

This fall's drought has created hazardous conditions. And while a lightning strike sparked the Cherokee County fire, 98% of fires like these start with people being careless, Kevin Harvell of the North Carolina Forest Service said on "Charlotte Talks."

"Most are accidental, whether it's machine use … somebody mowing the grass and they run over a rock and spark the grass on fire. Or they thought they put their campfire out but it wasn't completely put out," he said.

"So what we need folks to do is take the care and the time when they're in the forest to make sure that they're not going to cause harm by carelessly throwing a cigarette down or accidentally leaving their campfire smoldering when they pack up and go home for the day," Harvell said.

Outside burning is banned across much of the region. Gov. Roy Cooper has added 16 counties, including Anson and Stanly, to the state of emergency he declared earlier this month because of drought conditions and wildfires. Most of the Charlotte region was already under the order.

You can listen to the full "Charlotte Talks" at

See the latest map of North Carolina wildfires at

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.
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