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Forecasters Predict Little Relief to Drought


By Megan V. Williams

Wilmington, NC – Despite its desirably soggy ending, 2007 still has the unwelcome distinction of being the one of driest on record for the state of North Carolina. With most of the state under 'exceptional drought,' the parched conditions hit farmers, cities, and wild lands alike.

Many farmers who bet on higher corn prices because of the demand for ethanol saw their water-intensive crop shrivel without rain. Cattle and horse owners are scouring the southeast for hay supplies to feed their livestock this winter. And the State Bureau of Investigations even reports that outdoor marijuana growers lost much of their illegal crops.

Despite an ongoing statewide burning ban, wild fires raged around the state this year, scorching close to 37,000 acres.

Lakes and reservoirs shrank, their dried banks revealing a treasury of artifacts to archeologists and looters. Numerous cities, including Wilmington, issued mandatory water restrictions, trying to cope with what the National Weather Service's Tom Mattheson describes as a 'profound' drought.

"In Wilmington, where we've been maintaining weather records since 1871, this is, at this point, the third driest year ever."

Although the Cape Fear region has seen some rain right at the end of the year, Mattheson says it's far from what's needed.

"The drought is profound, and we don't expect any change from that. Little bits of rain aren't going to do the trick. We need a change in the pattern and we don't see that coming."

Mattheson says a strong La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific is expected to continue, driving rain away from the Southeastern United States through the early part of next year.

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