Much of the country sweltered in hot, dry and even deadly conditions this week, as residents in 40 states endured temperatures over 90 degrees. Nearly 200 million Americans were under a heat warning in what’s being called a ‘heat dome.’
Pavement buckled under the hot conditions and even water mains broke under the pressure.
Some lakes are experiencing algae bloom, a condition that kills fish and threatens livestock which rely on the water for survival. The toxic condition flourishes in warm, stagnant water. This year’s heat wave, combined with unprecedented drought in some locations, prompted some people to compare conditions to the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.
Next week’s USDA crop progress report will likely reveal declining conditions in crops, already behind in many areas, most notably the eastern Corn Belt, due to a cold, wet, spring.
Nationally, only 35 percent of the corn crop has entered the silking phase, well below the normal pace of 47 percent.
In Iowa, the nation’s leading corn producing state, much of the same area damaged by wind last week, was baked by the summer sun this week.
A new estimate confirms earlier thoughts on the extent of damage from last week’s deresho from 5 to 30 percent yield loss. This week’s heat could zap another 4 percent from the crop, with six consecutive days in the mid to upper 90’s.
USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey: “We’re seeing the impact now beginning on corn and soybeans due to the heat, the humidity and the lack of overnight cooling not giving the plants a chance to rest at night and that does affect the yield potential.”
In Texas, farmers and ranchers continue to bake under the hot sun.
USDA has already declared all 254 of Texas counties as natural disaster areas. More than one-third of the state’s wheat crop could be lost due to record-breaking drought, already stretched wheat supply market. State officials estimate the agricultural damage losses in the Lone Star State would likely surpass the $3 billion dollar mark.
USDA Meteorologist Brad Rippey. “So we continue to see the heat and the drought affecting Texas and the neighboring states in the south U.S., but at the same time now at a very critical time in the development for corn and soybeans the heat and drier conditions have moved into the Midwest and that is creating a variety of problems now as we continue to see pastures and rangeland burn up in the south central U.S. More that ninety percent of the pastures and range in Texas rated in very poor to poor condition.”
Some parts of Texas haven’t seen significant rainfall since last August and much of the state remains parched by drought and high winds.
Some ranchers are beginning to sell off their herds at a level not seen since the mid 1990’s, even as demand for beef is increasing.
Dr. David Anderson, Texas Agrilife Extension Service: “Over the next two to three years, we’ll be looking at some even higher beef prices than what we’ve seen lately and we’ve been at some record high beef prices nationally at the retail counter for a number of months. The drought is the next part of the double or triple whammy, we’ve had higher costs as much of the economy has had the last several years, but high feed costs, higher diesel costs high production costs have forced ranchers to already sell off part of their herds and this drought already exacerbates the problem we already have.”
Conditions are ripe for wild fires as red flag warnings were issued this week for Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Even with a major drought to the south, just a few hundred miles away, devastating flooding continues along the Missouri River. This week governors from 4 states accepted an invitation from Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman to talk about flood impacts and management of the Missouri River. The five will meet next month in Omaha where waters continue to flow above flood stage.
Some Iowa officials said this week they’d like to keep some of the temporary flood protection in place, in part, because the cost to remove the dikes, levees and burms would be incurred again to erect barriers if and when high water returns.