With 65 N.C. counties experiencing moderate drought, residents should think before burning debris

Photo of woods on fire

With 81 counties experiencing moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions, the N.C. Forest Service is urging residents to avoid burning yard waste and other debris.

Today’s announcement that 65 North Carolina counties are in a moderate drought reinforces recent cautions from the N.C. Forest Service about burning yard waste and other debris.

The Drought Management Advisory Council released a map showing the drought spreading over central and western North Carolina. Moderate drought now covers 65 counties, an increase of 11 since last week. Moderate drought is the least severe of the four drought categories. Another 16 counties are abnormally dry, which means they could be thrust into drought if dry conditions persist.

Drought categories are based on stream flows, groundwater levels, the amount of water stored in reservoirs, soil moisture, the time of year and other relevant factors for assessing the extent and severity of drought conditions.

Fall is usually one of the driest seasons, a fact supported by the historical drought map. North Carolina has experienced some form of drought during the fall in seven of the past 10 years.

In a news release, State Climatologist Ryan Boyles said November was the seventh-driest month on record in terms of statewide average rainfall since 1895. “Meteorologists do not have a clear picture of the winter forecast this year,” he said. “If the state does not receive adequate rainfall in the winter, it could create bigger problems next year if spring and summer months are also dry.”

The existence of dry conditions prompted the N.C. Forest Service in late November to urge residents to be safe and avoid burning yard waste and other debris until the state gets some significant rain.

There were more than 650 wildfires across the state in November, according to Forest Service statistics. Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in North Carolina.

If you absolutely need to burn debris, please follow the Forest Service’s advice for reducing the risk of a wildfire.

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