STEELE, N.D. - More than 60 percent of the United States now has abnormally dry or drought conditions, stretching from Georgia to Arizona and across the north through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin, said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist for the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
An area stretching from south central North Dakota to central South Dakota is the most drought-stricken region in the nation, Svoboda said.
"It's the epicenter," he said. "It's just like a wasteland in north central South Dakota."
Conditions aren't much better a little farther north. Paul Smokov and his wife, Betty, raise several hundred cattle on their 1,750-acre ranch north of Steele, a town of about 760 people.
Fields of wheat, durum and barley in the Dakotas this dry summer will never end up as pasta, bread or beer. What is left of the stifled crops has been salvaged to feed livestock struggling on pastures where hot winds blow clouds of dirt from dried-out ponds.
Some ranchers have been forced to sell their entire herds, and others are either moving their cattle to greener pastures or buying more already-costly feed. Hundreds of acres of grasslands have been blackened by fires sparked by lightning or farm equipment.
"These 100-degree days for weeks steady have been burning everything up," said Steele Mayor Walter Johnson, who added that he'd prefer 2 feet of snow over this weather.
Farm ponds and other small bodies of water have dried out from the heat, leaving the residual alkali dust to be whipped up by the wind. The blowing, dirt-and-salt mixture is a phenomenon that hasn't been seen in south central North Dakota since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, Johnson said.
North Dakota's all-time high temperature was set here in July 1936, at 121. Smokov, now 81, remembers that time and believes conditions this summer probably are worse.
"I could see this coming in May," Smokov said of the parched pastures and wilted crops. "That's the time the good Lord gives us our general rains. But we never got them this year."
Brad Rippey, a federal Agriculture Department meteorologist in Washington, said this year's drought is continuing one that started in the late 1990s. "The 1999 to 2006 drought ranks only behind the 1930s and the 1950s. It's the third-worst drought on record — period," Rippey said.
Svoboda was reluctant to say how bad the current drought might eventually be.
"We'll have to wait to see how it plays out — but it's definitely bad," he said. "And the drought seems to not be going anywhere soon."
Herman Schumacher, who owns Herreid Livestock Auction in north central South Dakota, said his company is handling more sales than ever because of the drought.
In May, June and July last year, his company sold 3,800 cattle. During the same months this year, more than 27,000 cattle have been sold, he said.
"I've been in the barn here for 25 years and I can't even compare this year to any other year," Schumacher said.
He said about 50 ranchers have run cows through his auction this year.
"Some of them just trimmed off their herds, but about a third of them were complete dispersions — they'll never be back," he said.
"This county is looking rough — these 100-degree days are just killing us," said Gwen Payne, a North Dakota State University extension agent in Kidder County, where Steele is located.
The Agriculture Department says North Dakota last year led the nation in production of 15 different commodity classes, including spring wheat, durum wheat, barley, oats, canola, pinto beans, dry edible peas, lentils, flaxseed, sunflower and honey.
North Dakota State University professor and researcher Larry Leistritz said it's too early to tell what effect this year's drought will have on commodity prices. Flour prices already have gone up and may rise more because of the effect of drought on wheat.
"There will be somewhat higher grain prices, no doubt about it," Leistritz said. "With livestock, the short-term effect may mean depressed meat prices, with a larger number of animals being sent to slaughter. But in the longer run it may prolong the period of relatively high meat prices."
Eventually, more than farmers could suffer.
"Agriculture is not only the biggest industry in the state, it's just about the only industry," Leistritz said. "Communities live or die with the fortunes of agriculture."
Susie White, who runs the Lone Steer motel and restaurant in Steele, along Interstate 94, said even out-of-state travelers notice the drought.
"Even I never paid attention to the crops around here. But I notice them now because they're not there," she said.
"We're all wondering how we're going to stay alive this winter if the farmers don't make any money this summer," she said.
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In my state we had more water and snow this year than in many many years. Some of the high lakes are still snowed in.
So as it allways has been for millions of years and will allways continue to be. There are droughts and there are floods. Personally I think the thing most affected by this so called global warming is the minds of people like the media and their nameless followers.
Also I find it rater amazing that almost all of the cut and pastes about weather extreemes are form another namless person?
It's a know fact we are getting warmer, and not just in one year or a few years time. It's a definite trend. Records don't lie.
The catch is, is it part of a normal warming cycle are does man's greenhouse gas production play a big part in this warming trend?
For all we know if we are a big part of it, we could actually inadvertantly save ourselves from the next ice age which is due. Who knows?
I see for the first six months 2006 is the warmest year on record since the NWS has been keeping records. Of course droughts and high temps are part of a vicious cycle that feed upon each other.
Randy what state are you in?
Is ending the world is ending
Six months ago it was really cold and now it really hot, and today was hotter than yesterday.
We all died and went to hell. LOL
Not in my neck of the woods. I had open water in January. That sucks if you want to ice fish! Don't believe me? Look at this:
The only way I could at least pretend to ice fish! Yeah I know I'm a diehard icefisherman.
Look at the bright side. When we become senior citizens we won't have to go to Florida!
I live in central north dakota and the corn in my garden is shriveling up like raisins. I haven't mowed the lawn in 3 weeks. And it's still staying in the upper 90's during the day.
What state are you in?
We did not get an real quantities of snow on the front range last winter, and now this summer we have had no rain. It rained for 4 days straight about a month ago, and been dry ever since.
The farmers aren't allowed to water, yet the Denver metro area is using water on lawns and golf courses like it is going out of style.
I know that a bunch of farmers in my area are praying for the big white combine. (hail). Since their crops ain't gonna be worth a whole lot. They'd probably get more money from crop insurance than what they are gonna get harvesting.
The lawns and golf courses have precidence over farming? It's usually the other way around in other parts of the country isn't it?
Randy was just blowing smoke as he refuses to tell what state had more water and snow than it had seen in years and years and years...ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
we have so much rain my garden is flooded. The tomatoes nearly died during the last rain due to the overabundance of water. Waterlogged roots are killers, as many may already know. The most recetn rain dumped nearly 2 more inches.
It may be dry elsewhere, but it is wet here. perhaps we will be the breadbasket. Or, perhaps all those predicitons for 2029 will simply no longer be true?
This has been going on for centuries. We now have the media and all types of communication to know what the weather is doing anytime anywhere, any second of the day or night. Years ago we didn't know what was happening 50 miles away. How could we tell what the weather was day to day across the country or around the world. You guys are all talking about wet hot dry etc. Different weather patterns happening in different parts of the country. I'm gussing there are probably parts of the world that are very wet. The weather changes daily. Take a look at it next week and next month. I'll bet it won't be as it is now. Next summr we might have a very wet summer and cooler. I bet you wouldn't hear about another ice age coming. I remember walking home from some activity once a week as a kid. 30+ years ago. There was a store fron that had a thermometer kind of like a bank has. It read 101 one day and 105 a week later. I remember it because it hit triple digits. I remember many hot days on the farm with no ac. I also remember cold wet summers that you cut deep ruts in the field trying to get the hay in before the next rain fall. Remember we used to have dinasours running around. then the ICE AGE hit. That didn't happen over night. We still have glaciers mellting. I'm guessing they may be left over from the ice age. That would mean we are still coming out of the ice age. No one knows how long of time it was from the dinasour age and the ice age, to now. They say millions of years. Is that 1-2 million or 100-200-300 million. The time frame we are in now( the last 300 years)is to small of time to register. It is smaller than a pin head compared to the age of the earth. I guess the scientists are right about global warming. It may be getting warmer right now and next year it might be colder. In a few million years there might be dinasours or some other life form here. Millions of years after that we might have glaciers again. Do we blame hair spray and freon for the end of the ice age or dinasours? I'ts a cycle you can't do anything about it. My family and I will be long gone by the time the so called global warming kills everyone. I won't know my future ancesters so I won't really care about them to much.
Your right, I will be long gone to see any of the effects I have on the earth. Now I don't feel so bad about pouring all that used motor oil in to the creek. I won't be around to see its effects. You make me feel a lot better.
By the way I am sure NASA is interested in your theory on climate change. They will particularly interested in your stories about the thermometer at the store. LOL