LAKE WYLIE -- According to state drought experts, the latest outlook depends on the size of your map.
The South Carolina Drought Response Committee on Thursday switched 16 coastal and Pee Dee counties from no drought status to incipient, meaning every county in the state is now considered at some stage of drought. York County, however, is one of only five counties -- all within the Catawba-Wateree River basin -- to have its status improve from severe to moderate.
"The key to that downgrade is the Low Inflow Protocol," said Hope Mizzell, state climatologist. "That was a big driving factor."
The Low Inflow Protocol system is designed to sustain water resources in times of drought, and is specific to Duke Energy, the company managing the Catawba River. By using the LIP system, Duke was able to lessen the impact of drought conditions and improved LIP status beginning in mid-January helped York, Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster and Kershaw counties receive the moderate rating.
While South Carolina uses four drought levels -- incipient, moderate, severe and extreme -- its northern neighbor uses five levels. Currently, North Carolina sees only the three lowest classifications -- abnormally dry, moderate drought and severe drought.
On Friday, North Carolina reported the number of counties in moderate or severe drought jumped from 39 to 63 from the previous week. Another 37 counties are abnormally dry. The last time more than half of North Carolina's counties experienced that kind of drought was mid-November of last year.
"Water table levels continue to be below normal in this area together with minimum precipitation," said Woody Yonts, chairman of the state Drought Management Advisory Council. "Moderate or severe drought conditions continue to blanket parts of the Charlotte, Asheville and Hendersonville metropolitan areas."
Almost all of Gaston County lies in severe drought, the worst in the state, while Mecklenburg County is moderate.
York County remains cautious. "We're not optimistic," Mizzell sai. ""Given the forecast, it's likely by the next declaration, in four to eight weeks, we'll be right back where we were."
The S.C. Drought Committee will meet again April 1, while another drought map in North Carolina is expected this week. For information, visit dnr.sc.gov or ncdrought.org.