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Heat Wave Continues In Southeast And Drought Dries Up Farming Profits

July 14, 1986

Undated (AP) _ The Southeast continued to swelter, with temperatures soaring above 100 in parts of the Carolinas and Georgia, and thunderstorms spawned in the heat killed at least two people.

A drought emergency was expected to be declared today in South Carolina.

It was 104 degrees in Columbia, S.C., Sunday, breaking a 1980 record of 103. It marked the seventh consecutive day above 100 degrees in the city, breaking the old record of six days of triple-digit temperatures.

It was much the same story Sunday in Charleston, S.C., where the 101 was a record high and extended the streak of 100-plus days to six. The previous record had been three consecutive days in the 100s, set in 1934 and 1942.

Records were also set in three North Carolina cities: Charlotte, where the temperature reached 100; Wilmington, where it was 99; and Cape Hatteras, where the temperature was 92.

The forecast for the region was for similar temperatures today, and the only rain predicted in most of the area was widely scattered thunderstorms.

In Maryland, where temperatures over the weekend reached into the high 90s, a Salisbury woman died early today after being struck in the head by lightning Sunday. During that storm, power also was knocked out to about 8,000 customers of Baltimore Gas & Electric, officials said.

An 11-year-old Plymouth, N.C., boy died Sunday from injuries suffered when he was struck by lightning during a sudden storm Saturday, sheriff’s deputies said.

John Purvis, a climatologist for the state of South Carolina, said today’s expected drought emergency declaration would allow regional committees around the state to impose restrictions on non-essential water use.

Rainfall in South Carolina has been 15 to 20 inches below normal for the year. In Georgia, Atlanta is 15 inches short, and parts of the state’s northern mountains are more than 20 inches below normal. North Carolina’s Piedmont region was more than 16 inches below normal.

″You’ve heard of the straw that broke the camel’s back,″ said Bobby Vause, a farm equipment dealer in Fayetteville, N.C. ″This will be it for a lot of farmers. This is the very last thing they needed.″

In North Carolina, some areas would need an entire year’s normal rainfall over the next three months ″just to get things back on center,″ said Grant W. Goodge, climatologist at the weather service’s Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Without substantial rain in the next two weeks, agricultural experts in North Carolina predict as much as 75 percent of the corn crop, valued at $340 million last year, will be lost. The drought has also heavily damaged the state’s Christmas tree crop.

Commercial traffic on the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola rivers in south Georgia could be disrupted later this month because they are reaching record and near-record low water levels. Eugene C. Brown, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Sunday that river traffic from Columbus to the Gulf of Mexico is endangered.

Commerical barge traffic is not feasible if the channel dips below 5 to 5 1/2 feet, which could happen by the end of the month, Brown said.