Drought, 100-Degree Temperature Take Toll in US
Reuters, August 30, 2000
Unrelenting triple-digit temperatures were roasting the U.S. Plains states Wednesday, continuing a weather pattern that is devastating crops, threatening livestock and challenging people to find ways to beat the heat. In Kansas City, where the thermometer climbed to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day for more than a week and was forecast to hit 102 Wednesday, health officials pleaded with area residents to refrain from outdoor activity and seek air-conditioning. A 68-year-old man succumbed to the heat in his home that lacked air-conditioning Monday. "It gets hot every summer, but it does not get into triple digits several days in a row like it is now," said Kansas City Health Department deputy director Thomas Maddox. "We are very, very concerned about how hot it is." Indeed, from Nebraska south into Texas and stretching into the Southeast, the extreme heat coupled with extended drought conditions to render devastating consequences.
The agricultural sector has been hit the hardest. Corn, soybeans, sorghum and other autumn crops that were already struggling with an extremely dry summer were virtually wiped out in many areas by the recent heat blast, costing farmers millions of dollars in lost revenues and prompting state requests for federal assistance. Cattle ranchers have no pasture grass left to graze their herds and little grain in the fields to use for feed. Water supplies were being limited in some areas, including in southwest Nebraska where some farmers trying to pump water to crops found their irrigation systems restricted by state officials trying to conserve water. "Literally much of our corn has burned up," said Chris Peterson, spokesman for Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns. "Cattle are streaming to sale barns because there is nothing to feed them. It's a pretty bad deal." Peterson said 100 municipal water systems across the state were being closely monitored because of dangerously low levels, and fears of wildfires prompted Johanns to deploy National Guard water tankers to western Nebraska to be ready for firefighting.
In Texas, Wednesday was the 38th day this summer and seventh in a row with temperatures of 100 or above. That, combined with the fact that rain has not fallen for a record-breaking 61 days, was devastating the state's farmers. Texas agricultural economists estimated farmers and ranchers had lost some $595 million. In Oklahoma, where midday temperatures were 101 degrees Wednesday, the toll was estimated at $400 million to $600 million, according to state agriculture officials. Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating declared a disaster-related emergency Tuesday as Oklahoma City broke all-time records for water usage, and hospitals continued to see an influx of people suffering heat-related illnesses. "When you have both hot and dry go hand in hand, the impact is magnified and you've got a double-whammy," said Mark Svoboda, a University of Nebraska climatologist. "You've got problems not just in the agricultural sector but you see such a huge demand on utilities, water and electricity, for people to cool their houses and drink the water." "It's not unusual to see 100-degree temperatures in the summer," he said, "but when it's so dry and the heat comes, we become vulnerable pretty quickly."