CHARLOTTE -- Recent thunderstorms have provided some relief to lawns and farms, but the rain hasn't done enough to bring the Charlotte area out of its year-long drought.
Mecklenburg and surrounding counties are still listed by the National Weather Service among 27 N.C. counties in an "extreme" drought - the second-worst level of drought. And recent days' rainfall has been spotty, with Charlotte/Douglas International Airport getting only .02 of an inch Sunday while other parts of the city received nearly 2 inches.
"We're certainly getting into the more typical summer time pattern, and it's likely that we will see scattered thunderstorms most afternoons in July," said Larry Gabric, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service. "But the bottom line is that the rain from these storms is not nearly enough to make a significant difference in the reservoirs."
Rainfall for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area is at 22.69 inches for this year, an increase from last year's 17.87 inches, but there is still an overall deficit of 3.83 inches for the year.
Gabric said the Mecklenburg area needs 12 to15 inches of rain within several days in order to fully recharge the reservoirs and streams and break the drought.
Bertha, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, strengthened Monday, but forecasters expect that storm to curve northward before hitting the U.S. coast. Its rainfall will remain far off the Carolinas coast, meteorologists predict.
A deluge is needed because droughts are more difficult to overcome in the summer. In the high heat, water evaporates more rapidly from lakes, and plants tend to absorb more moisture from the soil than usual. As a result, the recent rainfall has gone into maintaining soil moisture rather than increasing reservoir levels.
Cam Coley, the spokesman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities, notes that while lake levels have been fine prior to the storms, the streams feeding the lakes have been only at 50 percent of their normal capacity.
In light of the predicted thunderstorm conditions, the Catawba-Wateree Drought Management Advisory Group will conduct a conference call in mid-July, before its end-of-July meeting, in order to re-evaluate the water restrictions. But it is unlikely for current weather conditions to warrant any changes.