Drought-weary California faces brutal wildfire season
click image to zoomThe Drought Monitor map released on April 3, 2014. Recent downpours fell far short of pulling California out of drought, and as if the drought didn’t offer enough headaches, a meager snowpack and an already busy wildfire season adds to the gloomy outlook.
In the latest Drought Monitor report, more than two-thirds of the state is currently in extreme or worse drought.
Experts across the state are now concerned of the possible export ramifications of the drought. Many worry it could cut key farm exports and potentially affect jobs in rural areas as well as at ports and other urban workplaces. Read more from the California Farm Bureau here.
A new report from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) added to the bad news. This report showed that while late-season storms did boost the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, it remains far below normal as the spring melt quickly approaches.
“Coupled with this winter’s scant rainfall, the meager snowpack – containing only 32 percent of average water content for the date – promises a gloomy summer for California farms and many communities,” the DWR said in a news release.
Cal Fire has already begun to hire hundreds of firefighters in antiquation of a busy wildfire season. According to KTVU News, Cal Fire responded to more than 200 wildfires between Jan. 1 and March 22 with 2,300 acres already charred.
"Even with rain in March, our fire activity has remained 200 percent more over average statewide," said Chief Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director. "The rain has been great, but it has not been enough to make up for our dry winter and California's drought," Pimlott said.
But California isn’t the only state in the country to be left fighting high levels of intense drought. Drought has deeply entrenched states from California to Texas and as far north as Minnesota.
In Texas, drought conditions continue to steadily decline. Currently 42 percent of the Lone Star State is in severe to exceptional drought. As of April 2, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency designated 11 counties in Texas as primary natural disaster areas due to the recent drought.
Robert Burns, Communication Specialist with the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center, explained that “as Mother Nature continues to play what seems like an extended April Fools’ joke on parts of Texas with ongoing drought, agricultural producers have some tough cropping decisions to make.”
On the northern Plains, drought is again making itself at home in many key agricultural states, including Kanas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa. See the full Drought Monitor report and map here.
The U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook favors drought improvement or removal in many of these states though, while others in a band stretching from Texas to California, will be stuck with drought through at least mid-July.
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