When the wind picked up from the south on John Schweiser’s farm outside Rocky Ford, Colo., the sky would go black. A charging wall of dust would force the 80-year-old farmer and his wife to hunker down in their ranch-style farmhouse.
“You’d look up and here’d come this big ol’ rolling dirt,” Schweiser said. “You couldn’t see how high it was.”
Last month was the fifth wettest June on record, and that has helped ease drought conditions across Kansas.
Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says June was a critical month, because in parts of Kansas it's normally the wettest month. A lack of June rain would have meant Kansas missed a good chance to reduce the drought.
July is also a wet month in some areas, and Knapp says possible cooler weather this month could help further reduce the drought.
Despite recent storms, parts of Missouri and all of Kansas are still experiencing some level of drought. What creates these extreme conditions, and how much rain does it take to bring us back to normal?
On Wednesday's Central Standard, we talk with Brian Fuchs, who explains the mechanics of a drought.
Brian Fuchs, Climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center
Despite recent heavy rains across the state of Kansas, officials say the precipitation is likely not enough to end the drought.
Assistant State Climatologist Mary Knapp says Kansas has seen almost double what would be a normal amount of rain for the first part of June. But she says the rains won’t be enough to bring conditions back to normal, as the first five months of the year were very dry.
A hot, dry spring is sending mixed signals to Kansas climatologists trying to predict what kind of summer the Central Plains will have.
At the beginning of May, temperatures in Wichita, Kan., topped 100 degrees three times. Combine that with a lack of rain to the southwest, and crops across the state are starting to show signs of stress.
Nancy Friesen sat nervously at the controls of a giant John Deere combine that made the corn stalks look like match sticks. It was her second day in the driver’s seat of the giant machine and she normally works in the garden, not the field. But during harvest time, everyone in the family pitches in.
One year after the worst drought in decades, farm families all over the Midwest are preparing to bring in a record-breaking corn crop. While there’s some uncertainty in the air thanks to falling corn prices, this is a time of year when farm families focus on the task at hand.
Severe drought has been gripping much of Kansas, but in some parts of the state that grip has been easing; much of central and eastern Kansas is back to normal. As recently as three months ago, around 97 percent of the state was experiencing drought.
Mary Knapp with Kansas State University calls the turnaround “exceptional.”
“In central and southeastern Kansas we’ve actually gone from drought to deluge," she says. "We’ve got a number of locations that have seen incredible amounts of rain in the last three weeks.”
If you’ve experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.
Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country’s beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds – some even liquidated all their cattle – which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.
Dry conditions this summer could cause the herd to dwindle even further. That means beef prices may continue on a steady climb, just in time for grilling season.
Recent snowfalls brought much needed moisture to our region. Even so, the drought of last year has not been broken. Should it continue for months ... or even years ... what are the potential long-term effects?
Stop by most any unirrigated farm across the lower Midwest and you'll see crops in distress. Midwestern corn and soybean farmers are taking a beating during the recent drought, but it's not likely to drive many out of business.
Most of those farmers carry terrific insurance, and the worse the drought becomes, the more individual farmers will be paid for their lost crops. The federal government picks up most of the cost of the crop insurance program, and this year that bill is going to be a whopper.
Drought has set in early and hard across the Midwest, parching the Arkansas River basin. The river trickling out of the mountains is dry before it reaches some of the major agricultural uses downstream.