Wildfires raise drought concern

Thirty-four of South Carolina’s 46 counties were categorized yesterday as “Incipient Drought” counties.  Oconee, and the rest of the Upstate, is not included.  Oconee, Pickens, Anderson and the rest of Upstate counties are considered normal rainfall counties of late.  Incipient Drought is the first level of drought followed by Moderate, Severe, and Extreme.  According to the state Drought Response Committee, the concern for wildfires is the primary driving factor.  As the soil, leaves, and debris on the forest floor dries out, wildfires ignite much easier, and once fires start, they spread faster, burn hotter, and become much more difficult to control.  Hope Mizzell, state climatologist, says there are only a few counties in the northwest Upstate and along the coastal plain that received adequate precipitation during October and November, and elsewhere rain totals were much below normal.