Drought moving into Kentucky, West Virginia

The drought that has plagued the South for more than a year is creeping north.

Extreme drought conditions, the second-worst possible, have spread into Kentucky, and severe conditions have returned to West Virginia and southwest Virginia, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“The last three months have sucked every bit of moisture we've had,” said Ben Webster of the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

In eastern Kentucky, retailers are sending bottled water to drought-stricken Magoffin County after its main water source, the Licking River, fell to low levels and residents were told to conserve tap water.

The county's school system is serving meals on disposable plates with plastic utensils. Lunch trays have been temporarily shelved to save on dishwashing.

Kentucky also suffered through a severe drought a year ago, but “this is probably the worst that I've had to deal with,” said Joe Hunley, Magoffin County's schools superintendent.

Outdoor burning has been banned outright in 34 Kentucky counties and limited to between 4p.m. and 7 a.m. in West Virginia.

“We're just telling people to use extreme caution and a whole lot of common sense when they're burning,” Webster said.

Virginia officials need only look to last winter for reminders to be careful with fires. High winds on Feb. 10 fanned wildfires that charred more than 16,000 acres.

Thursday's rains did little to calm the threat, and the short-term forecast holds no relief.