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Rain dissolving South's long drought

The drought that has plagued many Southern states for nearly five years is quickly fading, according to officials who met here Thursday to discuss the waning problem.

A series of storms have dumped twice the normal amount of rain across the region since late August, refilling lakes and recharging streams that were nearly dry as temperatures soared near 100.

The best example may be the Great Pee Dee River. In July, some reservoirs along the waterway in North Carolina were dry and South Carolina officials warned the river would stop flowing in two months unless strict conservation measures were enacted.

Then Wednesday, forecasters issued a flood warning for the river east of Florence as it crested about 2 feet above flood stage.

While water restrictions are gone in most of the South except for Georgia, officials aren't ready to completely declare the drought over. They warn that groundwater levels will need more than a few months of heavy rain to replenish.

State climatologist Milt Brown said he expects above-normal rainfall throughout the Southeast through April.