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More Rainfall Over Drought Zone, But Reservoirs Still Low

August 14, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Rainfall of up to 5 inches restored soil moisture in some parts of the Southeast, but reservoirs in the drought zone remained far below normal.

Growers in some areas of North Carolina were advised to prepare to plant fall crops and reseed pastures as the downpour Wednesday boosted soil moisture to adequate levels in most of the Piedmont and coastal plain, the National Weather Service said.

But Joe Pelissier, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Raleigh-Durham Airport, said no area of North Carolina had made up the water deficit that characterizes a drought.

It was a similar situation in Georgia, where the heavy rainfall recently still has not helped fill Georgia’s lakes, said Atlanta meteorologist Max Blood.

″The ground is so dry it needs saturation before runoff occurs,″ Blood said. ″So far at the lakes there has been no significant improvement at all.″

Forecasters said high temperatures would return to the Southeast by the weekend, following several days of relief from heat that has killed 123 people in the South and Midwest.

Damage from the drought has been placed at $2.3 billion from Pennsylvania to Florida.

Agriculture Secretary Richard Lyng named 12 counties in North Florida as disaster areas Wednesday, giving farmers the chance to apply for low-interest loans and other aid. Florida Gov. Bob Graham said he would continue to press for aid for 10 other counties.

In Washington, a delegation of South Carolina farmers urged officials to speed up drought aid, including the use of government-owned surpluses to help stricken producers.

Harry S. Bell, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, and other state farm leaders Wednesday asked Lyng to ″use the perogatives which he has and give us the assistance which we so desperately need.″

In Georiga, the state Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it had expanded its ″Hay Hotline″ to include national toll-free service, so that people anywhere in the country can make a free call to donate hay or transportation.

Two congressmen, Reps. Don Sundquist, R-Tenn., and Jim Lightfoot, R-Iowa, proposed that needy farmers in Tennessee team up with Midwestern farmers willing to lend their hay, pasture and barns to hungry cattle for the winter.

But Sundquist spokesman Joel Wood said the plan would be a last resort, adding, ″We don’t expect any convoy of cows heading to Iowa.″

As of Wednesday, only one Tennessee farmer has called Sundquist’s office to inquire about the program, Wood said, while scores of Midwestern cattle ranchers, seeing a chance to make some extra cash, have flooded the switchboard at Lightfoot’s office.

In Riesel, Texas, members of the First Baptist Church were preparing to sell 1,000 hamburgers Saturday to raise money to buy bales of hay to send to the Southeast. Organizers hoped to send a bale of hay for each burger sold.

″In this area, there are farmers who have more hay than they know what to do with,″ said the Rev. Liebert Armour. ″They can’t afford to give it away because that’s their income. That’s one reason we’re buying hay rather than sending money. It also will help Texas farmers.″

Indiana farmers who sent hay to their South Carolina counterparts will get a thank-you message in the form of 40,000 pounds of peaches, Indiana Lt. Gov. John M. Mutz announced Wednesday.

About 1,000 boxes of South Carolina peaches are scheduled to arrive in Indiana Friday, a gift in honor of Hoosier donations of more than 2,000 tons of hay, Mutz said. The peaches are being donated by Carolina Ridge Orchards of Johnston, S.C., said Sally Wirthwein, a Mutz aide.

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