Drought conditions expanding across North Carolina

Nov. 21, 2023
Nine counties in North Carolina are under the highest category of drought advisory, Extreme Drought (D3), while portions of 30 counties are in the Severe Drought (D2) category and 40 counties are under Moderate Drought (D1).

North Carolina’s Drought Management Advisory Council (DMAC) has identified nine counties in the Extreme Drought category (D3 category), for the first time since 2017, as part of expanding drought conditions across the state, according to a press release from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

In addition to the nine counties in Extreme Drought, portions of 30 counties are in the Severe Drought category (D2 classification) as of Nov. 14. Forty counties are undergoing Moderate Drought (D1 classification). Portions of 99 counties – all except Pamlico – are experiencing abnormally dry conditions or higher in DMAC’s classifications.

Extreme Drought is impacting portions of Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Henderson, Macon, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties in the state’s southwestern and southern edges.

Water usage restrictions are determined on the water system level by the managing utility. Under Extreme Drought, all water users are advised to follow their Water Shortage Response Plans, adhering to guidelines established during the 2007 drought. Users are also required to report weekly water usage.

The North Carolina Forest Service has also issued a burn ban for 30 western North Carolina counties due to increased fire risk from dry conditions.

The National Weather Service is predicting wetter-than-average winter weather, but the shift is unlikely to occur for several weeks, said Klaus Albertin, chair of the DMAC.

“The mid- to long-term forecast is still for a wet winter due to the El Niño pattern,” Albertin said. “Conditions are likely to continue to degrade into early December, however, since we haven’t seen a shift in the weather pattern yet.”

DMAC has recommended examining water delivery systems to minimize loss and maximize efficiency, eliminating non-essential water use, and evaluating options for reuse, reclamation and/or recycling into daily operations.

DMAC’s drought map is updated weekly on Thursdays. The next map update will be on Nov. 22.