Through the raincloud: Agricultural community takes stock after record-breaking rains

A month of rain capped off by the arrival of Tropical Storm Alberto has caused massive flooding, landslides and loss of life in North Carolina’s western region, but the mountains west of Asheville were mostly able to escape the devastation experienced in Polk, McDowell, Avery and Buncombe counties. 

“I think everyone’s optimistic that we dodged a bullet to have got 20 inches of rain in two weeks and not gotten any more extensive flooding than what we had,” said Joe Deal, agriculture extension agent for Macon County Cooperative Extension.

Spring fire season arrives: Steady rain keeps wildfire to normal levels as region recovers from historic fall blazes

When rains finally quelled the flames of 2016’s historic fall fire season, firefighters breathed sighs of relief and mountain residents rejoiced in the newly smokeless air, but land managers were already looking ahead to springtime, when wildfires are typically even more severe and damaging than in the fall. 

At the time, the region was plunged in the most severe drought designation possible — even the days of steady rain that ended the fire season made barely a dent in it — and long-term forecasts were calling for a dry future.

‘No change in your pockets’: Farmers grapple with effects of historic drought year

Dowdy Bradley is 68 years old, and for nearly all of those years he’s been involved in some kind of farming, staying with the land through drought and flood, surplus and scarcity. The drought of 2016, however, has been the worst, hands-down — for him and for growers throughout the region. 

“This has been some of the hottest, driest weather I’ve seen, “ Bradley said. “I was worried about the water because it was already getting low. A couple pastures just dried up.”

Rain quells wildfires across the region

It took mere hours for the Chimney Tops 2 Fire to escape the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and sweep down to engulf parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Monday, Nov. 28. But as wind fueled the roaring fire, rain was on its way. The first drops of precipitation fell late Monday night, continuing into a steady rain Tuesday morning. More rain came on Wednesday, and precipitation resumed Sunday, Dec. 4, with rain still falling as of press time Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Western NC struggles with historic drought

Western North Carolina continues to be in a severe drought as wildfires rage through the mountains. The lack of rain has also impacted wildlife, outdoor recreation and agriculture in the region.

• Data-driven analysis drives modern weather forecasting
• Low water levels cut the season short
• Wildlife rides out the drought

Wildlife rides out the drought

From his vantage point on the banks of the Tuckasegee River, it’s not that hard for fly fishing guide Alex Bell to see that there’s something abnormal about the river’s flow this fall.

Low water levels cut the season short

Fontana Lake looks more like a narrow river running through a canyon right now as drought conditions persist across the region.

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