Sunday, February 26, 2012

Drought-weary Texans welcome rains, wildflowers

Jim Forsyth in the Chicago Tribune via Reuters: ... As spring approaches, recent rains across much of the state are giving drought-weary Texans hope that the devastation may be over. The drought ... killed millions of trees, sparked wildfires that burned nearly 4 million acres and caused billions of dollars in losses to the state's farming and ranching industries. Last year was the driest year on record in Texas, and the second-hottest, according to the National Weather Service.

Now, a little more than a third of the state - and none of the state's four largest metropolitan areas - is suffering from extreme or exceptional drought, according to a survey released last week by the U.S. Drought Monitor. By contrast, last September, nearly 97 percent was in one of those two most severe categories.

Parts of Texas received more rain in the first six weeks of 2012 than they received in all of 2011, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said. The drought still lingers in lightly populated parts of West Texas, the Texas Panhandle and in the brush country that hugs the Gulf Coast south of Corpus Christi. But San Antonio and Austin are only in moderate drought; Dallas-Fort Worth has emerged from the drought entirely; Houston is listed just as abnormally dry; and a large stretch of North Texas is back to normal moisture levels, according to the survey.

Heavy rains in January and early February were a welcome sight to farmers who suffered more than $5 billion worth of crop damage in last year's drought, according to Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The drought has resulted in higher consumer prices for everything from beef to peanut butter....

An August 2011 shot of a public boat launch on Lake Palestine in Henderson county, Texas during an extreme drought, shot by Buddpaul, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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