Between September 2010 and October 2011, Texas experienced the driest year in living memory. I don’t think many people expected it to go this far, but on Tuesday it was declared the worst drought in a century across nearly the entire state.
The drought is now expected to last throughout the winter until next summer, but some reports claim it could continue for several more years.
According to John Nielsen-Gammon, state of Texas climatologist, the current drought is “off the charts”. “Based on past history, you wouldn’t expect to see it happen in maybe 500 or 1,000 years.”
Agricultural damage as a result of the drought has reached more than $5 billion, with many ranchers forced to sell cattle they can’t feed. State reservoirs are 40% below normal, and several communities are within weeks of running out of water.
Another industry that’s experiencing major impact during the holiday season is the Christmas tree business, leaving many families on a hunt for fake trees.
The Mainstay Farm of Fort Worth stays in business by taking school kids on hayrides, putting up mazes for them to run through, and setting up fires for them to cook marshmallows. They’re not making much money by selling Christmas trees. “You’re gonna lose trees from year to year,” says owner Marianna Wilson. “But no, it was bad.”
To compensate for lost trees, Wilson has shipped in Frasier firs from North Carolina, and has planted a more drought-resistant strain of trees from Arizona. The farm lost about 25% of its trees in the drought, about 1,500 altogether.
Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory: Texas Groundwater Severely Depleted. The map depicts the amount of groundwater stored underground in the United States on November 28, 2011, as compared to the long-term average from 1948 to 2011.