Lakes open as drought drifts away

Posted May 2, 2008 5:14 a.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2008 7:04 a.m. EDT

— Recent rains have filled area lakes – and while that's good news for the state's drought, it's also good news for boaters. Two lakes in Durham open on Fridays, beginning today.

The wet weather has placed more than a year's worth of water in both Lake Michie and Little River reservoirs. For boaters, the good luck comes just in time for summer.

During the worst of the drought, ramps had to be closed on Lake Michie, because water levels were too low. Now, both reservoirs can be enjoyed Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The outdoor watering ban in Durham is also being relaxed. Residents are now allowed to spray their lawns on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The drought has also begun to release its grip on the Triangle. Last week's drought map showed the area under severe conditions. A new map out Thursday listed the area in a moderate drought, a welcomed improvement for many.

Johnston County has done even better at just abnormally dry conditions.

Heavier water restrictions will remain in place for Raleigh customers, however. Mayor Charles Meeker says watering just one day a week is here to stay. He says residents need to be prepared for the next drought.

Thirty-five of North Carolina's 100 counties, including Cumberland, Nash, Wilson, Franklin and Vance counties, were listed as being "abnormally dry" in the latest report issued by the state Drought Management Advisory Council.

Wake, Durham and Orange counties were among 21 counties experiencing moderate drought conditions. Twenty-six counties stretching from the Triad through Charlotte and to the western North Carolina mountains were listed as being in severe drought, and a dozen counties west of Charlotte remained in extreme drought.

A slow-moving system that dumped up to 3 inches of rain and spawned some flash floods Sunday helped alleviate the drought conditions across the region.

Almost 4 inches of rain were reported at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in April, which is 1.12 inches above normal, WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. For the year, 13.87 inches of rain has been recorded at RDU, which is 0.45 inches below normal, she said.

"Everything continues to inch westward," Gardner of the lessening in drought conditions. "Hopefully, as we continue to see a wetter pattern, we'll continue to eat away at the drought."

The region has another chance of rain on Sunday, when a front crosses North Carolina, bringing the possibility of showers and thunderstorms, she said.

The last time much of the Triangle wasn't experiencing drought conditions was last June. A hot, dry summer accelerated drought conditions statewide, and much of North Carolina remained in an "exceptional drought," the worst of five categories tracked by the state until early this year.