Friday's rains helped, but more needed to ease drought

Some much-needed rain fell Friday, but forecasters say more is needed for the area to avoid tougher drought restrictions this year.

Rock Hill received slightly more than an inch of rain Friday, said John Tomko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Area rainfall was more than 2 inches below normal in January, although it followed December's above-average rains that led to higher lake levels and boat ramps reopening.

• January's rain, sleet and snow helped, but Tomko said forecasters expect below-normal rain during the next three months. Temperatures are expected be higher than normal in February, he said. And all this follows the third-driest year for the region.

• Duke Energy announced this week that after more than 6 inches of rain fell across the Catawba-Wateree basin in recent weeks, the company expects tougher water restrictions won't be needed before August, according to a news release on Duke's Web site.

The company previously estimated Stage 4 drought conditions -- which eliminate all nonessential water use -- could begin in February.

• Some Lake Wylie boat ramps recently reopened. A Duke spokeswoman told The Herald last week that Duke monitors boat ramps weekly. When more are deemed safe for the public, they'll be opened, too. Boaters can access Lake Wylie at Nivens Creek and two ramps near the Buster Boyd Bridge.

• Today's weather is expected to be sunny with highs in the lower 60s, and tonight should be mostly clear with lows in the mid-30s, Tomko said. Sunday's weather is expected to be at least partly sunny with highs in the mid-60s.