Severe drought conditions in North Carolina expand to more than half the state

Driest November in 90 years and conditions may remain through winter

RALEIGH – North Carolina’s Drought Management Advisory Council (DMAC) has expanded its Severe Drought category for portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the Sandhills, most of the southern coastal plains, and along the entire eastern coastal area.

Severe Drought (D2 classification) now covers more than half of the state after another dry week added to precipitation deficits over the past three to six months. Severe drought is the second category of the four drought classifications based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Last May, portions of six counties were briefly classified as severe. Prior to that time, severe drought occurred during the month of October 2019.

Other areas, such as the Triangle, Triad and Piedmont have been elevated to a Moderate Drought category (D1 classification), from last week’s Abnormally Dry designation (D0). The area east of the mountains that had been in the normal category previously has been downgraded to Abnormally Dry status.

Virtually all the State, except a few localized areas near the western Virginia border, are experiencing dry conditions based on factors including streamflow, groundwater levels, reservoir levels, soil moisture, and fire danger.

“Much of the state has been in a dry pattern over the past three to six months, with generally above-normal temperatures and few to no tropical systems bringing widespread rainfall relief,” said Corey Davis, Assistant State Climatologist with the NC State Climate Office. “The dryness has been especially pronounced since early October. Less than one inch of rain fell in most areas last month. It’s the driest November in 90 years in North Carolina.”

DMAC publishes its drought map every Thursday morning. It is updated and submitted on the Tuesday prior for inclusion in U.S. Drought Monitor. Any rainfall that occurs after 8 a.m. Tuesdays is considered in analyzing the following week’s map. However, the rain in the current forecast is not expected to make much impact on the drought status since it may only provide 0.5 inches to 1.0 inches which is the normal amount expected for this time of year. The gradual deficit in October and more extreme shortfall in November has resulted in many areas being four to seven inches below normal over the last three months. 

The DMAC says current conditions and forecast models which reflect the warm, dry conditions that a La Nina weather pattern often brings, could lead to drought conditions continuing through the winter months.

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Burning ban lifted in Pender County

Pender County Fire Marshal Mark Haraway announced the lifting of the County burning ban effective today, Wednesday, Dec. 8, at noon.

“The fire threat has greatly reduced from the rainfall from today’s rain showers,” said Haraway.

Fire officials recommend that anyone who must burn items should have resources immediately available to control their fire. Those resources include water hoses, buckets of water, and hand tools.  Should a fire become out of control, individuals need to immediately contact the local fire department for assistance by calling 911.

The lifting of the burning ban will allow for individuals to utilize open burning for the disposal of vegetative debris that has been generated on their property.  This includes items such as leaves, straw, lawn clippings, shrubbery clippings, and sticks and branches.  Garbage, lumber, building materials, and rubber are never allowed to be burned.  These items must be disposed of at solid waste convenience sites located throughout the county.

Persons needing more information about open burning regulations in Pender County can contact the Pender County Fire Marshal at 910-259-1210.

Pender County welcomes Fire Marshal Mark Haraway


BURGAW – Pender County Emergency Management recently announced the hiring of Mark Haraway as Fire Marshal.

A native of Danville, Virginia, Haraway is no stranger to Southeastern North Carolina where he has served as a firefighter, training officer, deputy fire marshal, special operations coordinator, fire chief, deputy fire chief, and now fire marshal.

He started his public service career in May 1979 as a teenager.

“My entire family was involved in public safety.  My grandfather was a police officer for 32 years, my dad was in the volunteer rescue squad and a career firefighter for 37 years, my uncle was a career firefighter, so it was kind of like the family business,” said Haraway. “I started in the volunteer rescue squad at age 16, was a Red Cross CPR and First Aid instructor at 16, joined the volunteer fire department at 18, and have been in the fire service ever since.”

Haraway’s experience has impacted several state-appointed boards, including Hazardous Materials Regulatory Control, North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) Rescue Development program, NCDOI Universal Commercial Code (UCC) Training Group, North Carolina Emergency Management Traffic Incident Management Systems (TIMS) Development Committee, and the North Carolina Emergency Management All-Hazard Incident Management Team (AHIMT) Development Committee.

“I retired in 2014 and moved to Tennessee, where I continued to work as Deputy Fire Marshal for Sevier and Knox Counties, then as the Deputy Fire Chief for the 134th Aire Refueling Wing for the Air National Guard,” said Haraway.

The strong draw of family pulled him away from retirement and Tennessee, he said.

“My wife and I decided we wanted to move back ‘home’ to North Carolina to be closer to our son and grandkids. Pender County is a place we are familiar with and wanted to come back to,” Haraway stated.

“Mark has influenced many young firefighters and EMTs through his training,” said Tommy Batson, Pender County Emergency Director. “Mark is a published author of a teaching text, Large Scale Incident Management. We are very pleased to have him on staff in Pender County.”

Haraway said in his “free time” he enjoys teaching fire science and Incident Command System (ICS) classes.

“I especially enjoy spending time with my grandkids and working in my woodshop,” Haraway added.

Pender County issues Burning Ban

BURGAW- Pender County Fire Marshal’s Office issued a Burning Ban effective Tuesday, Nov. 30, beginning at 8 a.m. This is a result of extreme dry conditions across the area.

“The area has received little, to no rainfall in the past few weeks. Additionally, the forecast has with no foreseeable significant rain in sight.” Tommy Batson, Pender County Emergency Director.

During the past few months with little rain and large amounts of dry leaf litter, the fire threat is growing. Weather patterns are forecasted to be dry with low humidity across southeastern North Carolina. This weather pattern will continue for some time.

The citizens of Pender County are urged to do everything possible to minimize the risk of fire during this period.

This restriction shall extend outward from all residential structures 100 feet. This proclamation does not prohibit outdoor charcoal or gas grills provided precautions are taken to prevent fire from escaping those appliances.

Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority pipeline leak will impact Pender County water service

BURGAW – A pipeline in the Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority sprung a major leak today impacting water service in Pender County.

“Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority (LCFWASA) is a purveyor of raw water,” said Kenny Keel, Pender County Utilities director. “While repairs are being made by LCFWASA to the pipeline this will impact our water usage in Pender County.”

Pender County Utilities (PCU) purchases some water from LCFWASA, as does Brunswick County and CFPUA in New Hanover. The PCU treatment plant will continue to operate as usual for now.

“We will have some reduction in flow and some period of shutdown over the next few days,” said Keel.

PCU is utilizing additional water from the Town of Wallace and Pender County’s Hampstead wells.

“We’re keeping our tanks as full as possible,” said Keel. “However, we are implementing voluntary water restrictions immediately.  Brunswick County and CFPUA are also implementing similar water restrictions.”

As LCFWASA continues to address the major water leak in their pipeline, Keel said the water purveyor is coordinating water restrictions to all LCFWASA customers, including Pender County.

Water conservation recommendations can be found on the PCU website at in the Documents section.

“PCU and LCFWASA are working to ensure we all can keep water flowing to our customers,” said Keel. “However, I strongly urge Pender County Utilities customers to conserve water until repairs are completed.”

Water outage

System Pressure Advisory!

 Water customers of Pender County Utilities, in Pender County, living in the vicinity of 5900 Hwy 117 North to the end of the system towards Wallace had a water outage starting around 3:00pm on October 21,2021. A utility contractor on Hwy 117 hit the 10-inch water main setting a power line anchor.  Water system has been isolated, and there is no water from 5900 Hwy 117 to the end of the system toward Wallace. The repair crew is in route and water service will be returned in 3 to 4 hours if there are no other problems encountered

Water service will be returned upon completion of the repair.

Therefore, consumers in the area noted above are advised to boil all water used for human consumption (including drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation) or use bottled water until this advisory is lifted. This advisory will be in effect for a minimum of 24 hours.

Vigorous boiling for one (1) minute should kill any disease-causing organisms that may be present in the water. Water customers are strongly urged to conserve water whenever possible.

This advisory remains in effect until further written notification is issued.

This advisory will go in effect on Wednesday 10-21-2021 4:00 pm.  The advisory will be lifted when 24-hour testing comes back negative for Bac-T.


Tree removal to temporarily close US Hwy 17 lane

Work will begin Sunday morning

HAMPSTEAD – The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to close a lane of a Pender County highway to safely remove a tree.

A lane of U.S. 17 North between Dan Owen Drive and Factory Road is scheduled to close at 6:30 a.m. Sunday. NCDOT expects the removal process will take up to five hours.

The tree that is being removed was recently struck by lightning.

While a lane will remain open to traffic, drivers are urged to seek an alternate route if possible, and if not, remain alert and use caution near where crews are working.

For real-time travel information, visit or follow NCDOT on social media.

North Carolina updates StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit

Sixty percent of North Carolinians over 18 have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

RALEIGH: Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. shared updated public health guidance for K-12 schools to follow in the upcoming school year.

“The most important work our state will do next month is getting all our school children back into the classrooms safely for in-person learning,” said Governor Cooper. “That’s the best way for them to learn, and we want their school days to be as close to normal as possible, especially after a year of disruption.”

The updated StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit is aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics guidance, which urges that everything possible is done to keep students in schools and emphasizes continued masking. The Toolkit says schools with students in kindergarten through eighth grade should require all children and staff to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Schools with students in 9th through 12th grades should ensure that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, including students, wear a mask indoors.

This guidance is effective July 30th and local school leaders are responsible for requiring and implementing protocols in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit in consultation with their local health departments.

The Toolkit also updates additional measures for schools related to quarantining after COVID exposure, physical distancing, testing, transportation, cleaning, and other considerations.

State health officials continue to urge unvaccinated people to follow CDC and NCDHHS guidance and wear a mask indoors. When Executive Order 220 expires at the end of July, North Carolina businesses and other entities where masks are required will make their own decisions about requiring masks, with strong guidance provided by NCDHHS. Everyone, regardless of vaccine status, should still wear a mask in certain places such as public transportation and healthcare facilities.

“Get vaccinated right now if you haven’t. We are seeing the impact of the very contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 and it’s hitting those who are unvaccinated hard,” said Secretary Cohen. “Schools need to use the additional safety protocols outlined in the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit to continue to protect students and staff as we enter the new school year.”

To date, North Carolina has administered more than 9.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 56 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. Sixty percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 86 percent of people 65 and over.

Learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at (English) or (Spanish). Details on the Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing can be found at Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccine site. Call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 888-675-4567.

Read the updated StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit.

Does your hurricane preparedness plan include your pets?

Here is a handy checklist of items you may need for your pet

Your family hurricane preparedness kit includes water for the entire family, but did you include water for the family pet(s)?

Water, medication, and the family pet’s important papers are needed as well. It’s a lot to think about in a time of disaster, so prepare now for the safety of your animals.



Bentfield named new Pender County Fire Marshal

PENDER COUNTY – Pender County Emergency Management recently announced the hiring of Robert Bentfield as the new Fire Marshal, a position vacated when Tommy Batson was named the Pender County Emergency Director.

Bentfield, a Pender County resident, joined the Wilmington Fire Department in March 1998. He is a trained firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician. He served as a Master Firefighter and was transferred to the Fire Marshal’s office to perform fire safety inspections and fire investigations. In 2021 he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

Bentfield, who had obtained his North Carolina Fire Inspector Level III designation as well securing the title of International Association of Arson Investigators Fire Investigation Technician (IAAI FIT), decided in 2015 to return to college to obtain a degree in Fire Science.

“Robert brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role of Fire Marshal for our county,” said Tommy Batson, Pender County Emergency Manager.

“As a resident of Pender County, I look forward to serving the residents and business owners of Pender County,” said Bentfield.

Bentfield is responsible for Plan Reviews for construction projects, construction inspections, building safety inspections, foster care inspections, fire education, citizen complaints, fire investigations, and assists the Emergency Management Director when needed.

A native of Michigan, Bentfield served in the US Marine Corps. He is married to his wife, Jamie. The couple has two sons, Jamison, and Jaxson. They are members of Scotts Hill Baptist Church.

The Pender County Fire Marshal may be reached at the Pender County Emergency Operations Center at 910-259-1210.


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