Severe drought creeps into western North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Drought is creeping into western North Carolina, with parts of four mountain counties now considered in a severe drought.

The dry weather has farmers starting to worry and utility directors warning they may start asking for voluntary water conservation soon.

The dry stretch began in the spring after record-breaking rainfall in Asheville in November and December. Since the beginning of March, Asheville has received just half of its average rainfall, according to the National Weather Service.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has placed parts of Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Transylvania counties in severe drought. Ten other North Carolina mountain counties are in a moderate drought from McDowell County westward.

Three months ago, the monitor's maps didn't have any of North Carolina even listed as abnormally dry.

The long, dry stretch has happened as winds high up in the atmosphere have tended to come out of the northwest over land instead of from the large bodies of water to the south and east, said Patrick Moore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, South Carolina.

"It keeps us cut off from moisture that would be coming in from the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean," Moore told the Citizen-Times of Asheville ( ).

Hendersonville Water and Sewer Director Lee Smith said he is watching the water supply carefully, as the flow of the Mills River has dropped significantly during the dry spell. A request to voluntarily conserve water by limiting car washing and watering lawns and plants is being considered.

"With the heat and dryness, that could happen sooner than later," Smith told The Times-News of Hendersonville ( ).

Farmers have already lost some hay, but they said timely rains over the rest of the summer could save their remaining crops.

The weather pattern for the next week look relatively dry in western North Carolina and the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook predicts drier than normal weather to persist in western North Carolina through September.

"At this time of year the rainfall that we get tends to be spotty," Moore aid. "Some places might end up getting a couple of thunderstorms and catch up, but most places don't. We don't tend to get widespread, significant rainfall at this time of year."

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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