A look at this week’s Drought Monitor showed more of the same – drought across half of the country.
Conditions did improve significantly across portions of Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Texas; however, these areas also paid a steep price for the welcomed drought relief, these areas also experience an outbreak of severe weather, including devastating tornadoes.
Not all states in the heartland were lucky enough to see drought relief. Three Plains states in particular are facing the full brunt of the drought:
- Kansas: Forty-weight percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. In Wichita, Kan., the state of 2014 has been the driest in the city’s history. Not even the Dust Bowl was this dry. Across the state, 97 percent of corn, 97 of soybeans, 98 percent hay, 99 percent of cattle and 100 percent of wheat are within areas experiencing drought.
- Oklahoma: Fifty percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. Heavy rain generally missed Oklahoma. The state’s wheat crop has been devastated by the excessive dryness, and the Oklahoma Wheat Commission has said this year’s crop will go down in history as one of the worst in decades. Across the state, 69 percent hay, 78 percent of cattle and 99 percent of wheat are within areas experiencing drought.
- Texas: Forty percent of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought. One state climatologist ranked the current drought the state’s fifth worst in the last 500 years. If the extensive dryness continues, the drought could be bumped up to the third worst in Texas history. A drought-fueled wildfire burned at least 150 structures along the Texas Panhandle this week and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. Across the state, 95 percent of corn, 77 percent hay, 84 percent of cattle and 99 percent of wheat are within areas experiencing drought.
Further to the west, California is sinking into “unprecedented” levels of drought.
All of the state is in severe or worse drought for the first time this century. It’s a drought National Drought Mitigation Center Climatologist Mark Svoboda explained to USA Today as a “once-in-a-generation” drought.
The only other California drought similar to today’s drought was during the 1920s, when the state’s population was just 1/10th of what it is now.
"All eyes are on El Niño’, although the intensity is going to be the key," Svoboda said. "I'd hate to wish for a super strong El Niño’ given the damage it can cause, but they desperately need the water!"
Wildfires have already roared across California, not a little more than a tinderbox . More than 14 square miles have been scorched this week alone, and it is expected to only get worse.