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Drought Conditions Turning ‘Worrisome’ for Agricultural Community in WNC


By Jesse Wood

Aside from an expected “unimpressive shower or two” tonight and into the a.m., the dry and sunny weather will continue for at least another week, according to RaysWeather.com.

This is not an optimal forecast considering the consistent lack of rain in Western North Carolina over the past two months, where only 3.5 inches of precipitation occurred in Boone since the beginning of September, according to the site’s weather archives.

Authorities continue to warn about the risks of forest fires in Western North Carolina, and now farmers are beginning to feel the effects of the drought, which is more severe the further southwest you go in the mountains (see attached drought map).

drought2As cited by State Climate Office of NC in its October summary, Cherokee Agriculture Extension Agent Keith Wood told USDA Crop Reports: “Some farmers feeding hay now they need for winter. Wells and springs drying up. Driest I have seen it in 50 years.”

In the High Country, Watauga County Cooperative Extension Director Jim Hamilton confirmed local cattlemen are doing the same because of stress to the pastures during the drought.

Hamilton noted that the local extension office has received calls regarding dry lawns and landscaping plants, which are showing signs of stress. In the past month and half, close to 1,000 pounds of ginseng seed have been planted; moisture, he said, is needed for the maturity and germination of the seed.

Christmas tree growers are undergoing steps to ensure post-harvest quality and needle retention, Hamilton said, by keeping their trees cool and moist as best as they can during this bone-dry time.

“It’s becoming worrisome,” Hamilton said. “We could have used a few more inches of rain that areas in the other part of the state would have been glad to give us.”

Hamilton, of course, was referring to the fatal and costly Hurricane Matthew, which was a catalyst in turning October 2016 into the 26th wettest October in the past 122 years, according to the State Climate Office.