COLUMBIA -- A South Carolina committee declared Thursday there is a severe drought in Horry and Marion counties and upgraded four more counties in the central part of the state to a moderate drought.
While lake levels remain high and water providers report no problems with their reservoirs, farmers have been hit hard. The corn crop is crippled, hay production likely will be slashed, and peanut and soybean farmers are praying for rain before it is too late.
The hot, dry weather removed the typical summer break for woodlands firefighters. The state Forestry Commission reported that South Carolina had nearly double the number of fires in June over the average for the month and almost reached its average number of fires for all of July in the first two weeks of this month.
Members of the state drought committee also warned conditions could quickly deteriorate anywhere in South Carolina if the heat continues and the occasional summer thunderstorms stop. They said some areas in individual counties might be a lot worse than those five or 10 miles down the road.
"During this time of year we are being sustained by scattered thunderstorms, which lead some people to be left out," said Scott Willett, executive director of the Anderson Regional Joint Water System.
The committee added Lancaster, Kershaw, Richland and Lexington counties to the moderate drought category, meaning 28 counties in the southern and eastern parts of the state are in that second stage of drought severity. Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties are included in that category.