- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on the spreading drought in North Carolina and South Carolina (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

The growing drought in western North Carolina and South Carolina also means a growing threat of wildfires in the rugged mountains.

The U.S. Forest Service says about 70 firefighters are near Sylva, North Carolina, making sure a 375 acre fire doesn’t spread to homes along Dicks Creek. Another fire is burning in the Linville Gorge.

Forest Service spokesman Steve Little says usually in the fall small debris, like fallen leaves and twigs, burn and are easier to contain. But he says a dry summer has left larger branches and dead trees drier than they have been in a decade or more.

Little says without a heavy rain, the fire danger will remain high at least through November.

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11:25 a.m.

South Carolina’s official committee that reviews drought has declared a severe drought in three counties in the western part of the state.

The western mountains of North Carolina are also experiencing unusually dry weather even as the eastern Carolinas dry out and clean up from massive floods from Hurricane Matthew,

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee placed Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties in a severe drought Wednesday and 11 counties to the south and east in moderate drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor has three far western North Carolina counties in extreme drought and nine others in severe drought.

Farmers are being hard hit and firefighters warn there is a serious danger of severe wildfires in rugged mountain areas with dry weather forecast for the foreseeable future.

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9:35 a.m.

The last river in South Carolina has finally fallen below major flood stage from Hurricane Matthew’s rains two weeks ago, but the western parts of South Carolina and North Carolina have an emerging crisis of a different sort.

Drought is creeping across the area, where places like Greenville are seeing one of their driest autumns on record.

The South Carolina Drought Response Committee is meeting Wednesday. When they last met in August, they put the entire state in some stage of drought.

Since then, Hurricane Matthew and other tropical systems drenched the eastern Carolinas. North Myrtle Beach has seen nearly 28 inches of rain since Sept. 1.

Those rains haven’t reached the west. Greenville had 1.43 inches of rain since Sept. 1 with similar totals in the North Carolina mountains.

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