College rain.jpg

Morning rain showers made for a wet commute through the Lowcountry and throughout the College of Charleston campus Wednesday, May 30, 2018. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Two weeks of persistent showers capped by Subtropical Storm Alberto were very good to the dry Lowcountry and South Carolina.

We're no longer in a statewide drought.

And that's good news for those who missed having extra water around.

Kayak guide Ed Deal tried to take a group last week up Wadboo Creek near Moncks Corner, a cypress swamp stream that's notorious for running so shallow that clients occasionally have to drag boats. About halfway up, he had to turn around, but not because the bed was dry.

"You get up there far enough it's running too fast for unseasoned paddlers," said Deal of Blueway Adventures.

Charleston on Thursday broke a 60-year old record for rainfall in May, reaching 9.34 inches about midday after repeated showers.  The record was 9.28 inches that fell in 1957.

Across the state, the rainiest May in a long time has soaked every one of South Carolina's 46 counties out of drought for the first time in two years.

That's meant boosts to everything from farming to recreation in what is traditionally a busy late spring month for everything outdoors.

"The rain has been absolutely perfect for corn, but we're behind on (planting) the cotton," said farmer Sam Weathers of St. George.

The effects have also been felt elsewhere. The wildflower bogs across the state were bone dry last month, said landscaper Jeff Jackson of the South Carolina Native Plant Society. When members tried to tour a spider lily reserve in McCormick County last week, only the tips of the plants were above water.

The group that maintains the bike trail at Marrington Plantation in Goose Creek has had to put their backs into it keeping sodden trails open, said volunteer Don Watts. But there have been more riders than ever.

Because of the increased precipitation, Deal has had to shuffle days or change trips with his customers, but the kayaking business has been as good as expected, he said.

Much of the change came in recent days. By April, any number of the state's major rivers had dropped to as little as 10 percent of their peak flows. When May started, Dorchester and Colleton counties were among 13 counties listed in incipient drought, meaning under the threat of drought. For the first half of May, no rain fell at the National Weather Service office in North Charleston, the official recording station.

But once the splatter started May 15, it didn't quit — raining at least a trace amount every day but one, including a deluge of nearly 5 inches on May 19.

Drought has plagued South Carolina off and on since the late-1990s. Ten years ago, the entire state was listed in some degree of drought, with Upstate counties listed either extreme or severe.

There hasn't been a single day since July 2016 when a county in the state wasn't listed as in drought or under a threat of drought, said State Climatologist Hope Mizzell.

Drought listings are decided by the State Drought Committee, a group of water use-related professionals, based on any number of trends such as whether river or groundwater levels are dropping or recovering. The trends tend to build or decline over time and can be a little puzzling to observers who see little more than whether it's rained recently.

The May showers "obviously were much needed rainfall," Mizzell said.

There's still concern for drought in the coming months. The national Climate Prediction Center is calling for a wetter than normal summer for the Southeast, but predicting any more than two weeks is considered "low confidence," or unreliable, she said.

In summer, rain tends to accumulate only from stray afternoon thundershowers or tropical systems.

"During the summer months, we can quickly slip back into drought," she warned. 

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.