Some areas of drought-stricken Texas saw heavy rains last week, but for many it is a case of too little, too late. The drought gripping the southwestern and southeastern U.S. is called historic, and much of Texas has not seen anything like it since records were first kept in 1898.
“I wouldn’t even describe the recent rains as a ‘dent’ and normal-type rains aren’t going to cut it in breaking this drought,” says Mark Svoboda, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center.
The U.S. Drought Monitor released this week shows continued expansion of extreme and exceptional drought conditions across the southern states. And climatologists see a continuation of the trend for the next two weeks.
The drought has also expanded northward, encompassing nearly all of Oklahoma and much of Kansas. Hooker, Okla., a small town in the Panhandle, has gone 71 days with less than .25 inches of rain on any one day. Hooker has only received 1.53 inches of rain during 2011.
According to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Oklahoma is experiencing its driest October to July period since 1921.
The drought conditions have ravaged the region, sparking many wildfires and ruining thousands of acres of pastureland and crops. Along with the drought has been intense heat, and that heat is hurting even irrigated crops.
Ranchers across the region are being forced to cull their herds dramatically. Many livestock auctions in the region are accommodating those forced liquidations with special cow sales, many of which have seen large runs of cattle. About the only good news to come from the situation is that prices for most cattle have held strong.
The effects of this drought, however, will last long after the rains come. The U.S. cow herd was already at lows not seen since 1958, and further herd reductions due to drought could hamper the industry’s efforts to provide the supplies needed to compete with pork and poultry.