In many places, rainfall has been 20 inches below the average of 60 inches the state gets each year. The drought started in April of last year, and since then only hurricanes Katrina and Rita have overfilled rain gauges. Even with devastating flooding, climatologists worry Louisiana is on the verge of severe drought conditions.
For a subtropical Southern state with abundant water supplies, drought has many ways of manifesting itself. Marshes threaded by bayous are burning. Upland rivers look as sandy as New Mexico arroyos. Sugar cane, dairy and beef farmers face heavy losses if the drought worsens, according to state conservationists.
In Louisiana's sugar cane belt, the typically lush, subtropical land has become so scorched that farmers are hoping for tropical storms, even hurricanes, to rise out of the Gulf of Mexico.