The Heat Is Online

Record Drought Parches Crops in Texas, Louisiana

North Texas breaks drought record
Aug. 29, 2000

Donna Sauer & Stephanie Watson,

Louisiana drought disaster
Kansas swelters under oppressive heat wave
Alabama wetlands drying up

Hot, dry weather is expected again today in North Texas, where even a little rain would be a welcome sight.

Monday was the 59th day in a row without rain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, breaking a record set first in the city during the Dust Bowl in 1934, then tied in 1950.

"The current dry pattern is due largely to a persistent area of high pressure that has dominated North Texas weather since the end of June. The pattern blocks the more normal moisture flows across the South," said National Weather Service Forecast Office Meteorologist in Charge "Skip" Ely.

The long-range forecast offered little hope of precipitation. "We could very well have 65 or 70 days without rain," said Fort Worth meteorologist Michael Mach.

This summer marks the third in a row that has seen persistent dry conditions. And the drought is not the only problem. It's hot - 36 days in a row of 100-degree temperatures in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Statewide, the drought has taken a costly toll on agriculture and livestock producers, who say that they’ve already lost $595 million this year due to the dry conditions, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs said.

"There are people selling all their cattle now because they're out of grass, water or both," said Rayford Pullen, agricultural extension agent for Montague County. "It looks like the middle of winter. Everything's brown," he said.

Lakes and ponds are running dry near Houston, while levels of the Edwards Aquifer continue to fall in Central Texas, threatening water supplies in San Antonio and surrounding areas.

Northwest of Dallas, the town of Throckmorton hasn’t seen rain since spring, and is within weeks of losing its water supply to the drought. Volunteers are working to link a new pipeline to another town’s reservoir to pump water into the town.

As the landscape grows drier with each passing day in Texas, the wildfire threat looms larger. Dozens of fires are burning across the state, and resources to fight them are running thin. Crews from as far away as South Carolina have been called into service to assist Texas firefighters.

Louisiana drought disaster

Soybeans, corn, and cotton may be the biggest victims of the severe drought across Louisiana.

State officials have requested that 41 of the state’s 64 parishes be declared farm disaster areas, which would make farmers eligible for low interest loans to help with their losses.

Thirty-three parishes have already suffered crop losses of 30 percent or more, according to Willie Cooper, director of the State Emergency Board.

More than half of the state’s soybeans and pastures are listed in poor or very poor condition, with more than a third of the state’s other major crops in similar categories, State Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom said.

Kansas swelters under oppressive heat wave

On Sunday, it was hotter in Lawrence, Kan., than in Death Valley. The heat wave continued Monday, as temperatures soared into the triple digits across the state.

By mid-afternoon, thermometers read 109 in Lawrence and Manhattan, and hit 107 in Topeka, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The NWS issued a heat advisory for central Kansas on Monday, and for the south-central and southeast portions of the state Tuesday.

"Hopefully, this is the hottest we have for the rest of the year," said NWS meteorologist Scott Whitmore. "It looks like temperatures will stay hot for the week but hopefully not as hot."

Local health officials warned residents to stay indoors whenever possible, drink plenty of water, and check on elderly friends and neighbors.

Alabama wetlands drying up

A 20-inch rainfall deficit has left the wetlands of Hale County, Ala., parched, according to two University of Alabama biology professors.

The husband and wife research team of Milton and Amy Ward has been studying the wetlands for the past eight years with elaborate experiments and weather monitoring equipment.

"This is the driest it has been since we’ve been here," Milton Ward said.

Ground once covered by water is now dry, leaving plants that normally flourish in the area struggling for survival. Animals native to the habitat are roughing it out for the most part, according to the Wards.

"The beavers are secretive, but they are still here. There are two herons that are still here. There used to be wood ducks. They are gone," said Milton Ward. He adds that it is much easier for the plants and animals to adapt to drought than it is for a farmer trying to grow a crop.

"The farmer has to make that one crop grow," he said. "In the wetland there are many different kinds of seeds in the ground and the one most compatible with conditions is the one that will grow."

The Wards say that long-term drought forecasts would help farmers adapt their planting plans much like the plants and animals in the wetlands adapt to changing weather conditions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.