Wednesday, August 2, 2006
In a replay of the beginning of the Great Depression, more than 60 percent of the United States now has abnormally dry or drought conditions. The drought stretches from Georgia to Arizona and across the north through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin. Brad Rippey, a USDA 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." Mark Svoboda, a climatologist for the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, 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...and the drought seems to not be going anywhere soon." See Seattle PI report
In addition to ranchers losing their herds and farmers losing their crops, 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.