Helped by tropical storms and a lingering low-pressure system, parts of drought-plagued Beaufort County have received more than twice as much rain as normal in May.
After months of below-average rainfall, that could be enough for state climatologists to upgrade the region's drought status from "moderate" to "incipient," according to assistant state climatologist Wes Tyler.
" 'Improved' is a good word choice," Tyler said in an email. "The effects from the lengthy period of absence of rainfall within the Upper Savannah River Basin were temporarily stabilized by this event's rainfall."
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort received exactly an inch of rain from Tropical Depression Beryl, compared with 4.8 inches in Allendale and 1.3 inches in Charleston, according to data from the S.C. State Climatology Office.
But for the month, MCAS Beaufort has received 5.73 inches, more than twice the historical average of 2.34 inches.
Hilton Head Island received about three-quarters of an inch from the storm, according to data from a volunteer weather station at the Salty Dog Cafe. For the month, the cafe recorded 2.79 inches of rain. At the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, 6.01 inches of rain have been recorded for the month.
Bluffton Township Fire District Capt. Randy Hunter welcomed Beryl's steady rains, which he said can reduce the risk of brush fires and other problems.
"Short rains don't penetrate into the deep underbrush. It doesn't get down into the deep-seated dryness," he said. "When we get a rain kind of like what we got (Tuesday), a more persistent lengthy rain, it has a chance to get down in and start to moisten everything."
Pete Nardi, Hilton Head Public Service District's community relations manager, said the recent rainfall has helped but "hasn't had a huge impact" on the utility's operations. Customers use about 10 million gallons of water each day, and irrigation accounts for as much as two-thirds of that amount, Nardi said.
"We do ask people to be mindful of irrigation, have a rain sensor, make sure that it works, and we ask people to follow Hilton Head Island's irrigation ordinance, which is two days a week," he said.
State Climatologist Hope Mizzell has scheduled a drought committee meeting for June 6, at which point the state could revise its drought classifications, Tyler said.