After 'flash drought,' only sliver of Southeast too dry

A drought that threatened crops and helped spark wildfires in the Southeast has receded across most of the region, according to a federal report released Thursday.

A new assessment from the National Drought Mitigation Center showed only tiny portions of Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina were still too dry after weeks of regular rainfall.

But conditions are worse in Georgia and Louisiana, where about 1.4 million people are still experiencing drought conditions, including part of the heavily populated greater Atlanta area. Northern Florida and southwestern Georgia also are in a moderate drought.

Heavy rains predicted in the region for this weekend could break records and help further alleviate remaining drought conditions, forecasters said. Southern portions of Alabama and Georgia could receive as much as 5 inches (13 centimeters) of rain by Christmas Eve, projections showed, and isolated areas could get even more.

A fast-developing “flash drought” choked the region earlier this fall, drying out crops and creating conditions that caused wildfires. At one point, nearly 56 million people in 16 Southern states were living in drought conditions.

Drought conditions are worse in southern Texas, the West and the Pacific Northwest.