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Hot, dry and dangerous

Government tries to address drought disaster

POSTED July 20, 2011 2:51 p.m.

Just in case anyone didn’t believe the drought and heat were serious, the government continues to react to this crisis that just seems to have no end in sight.
While there are suggestions that a limited relief in the triple digit heat is not too far in the future, that promise is slight and unless it also brings an unusually high rate of precipitation, it would be a case of “too little, too late,” for this year’s crops.
Because of that, the Kansas Department of Agriculture is reacting to help drought victims, it was announced this week.
“Water users in drought areas of Kansas have been in contact with our office concerning potential relief from the drought. The drought, with its extraordinarily low winter moisture and on-going nature, has resulted in many irrigators having insufficient remaining allocation to complete irrigation of their crops.
“To cease pumping when the maximum quantity is reached could result in a greatly reduced yield, a waste of the water that was already pumped and a waste of the energy that it took to pump the water.
“Two options for these water users needing additional pumping authorization are summarized below. These options are intended to prevent crop failure while insuring the additional pumping will not worsen aquifer declines. While these alternatives are designed principally for irrigation, non-irrigation uses of water can also apply for use of either of these pro-grams.”
The state agency noted that there are options for the water right holders in the emergency areas.
“Available for water right holders in agricultural drought disaster declaration areas requested by the governor and designated by the USDA.
“This program is a one-time only option for overages in 2011.
“It allows holders of existing permits or water rights the flexibility to borrow a portion of next year’s authorized quantity in order to complete the 2011 growing season to save their current crop.”
Qualifying counties include Barber, Barton, Butler, Clark, Comanche, Cowley, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Harper, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, Meade, Morton, Ness, Norton, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Reno, Rice, Rush, Russell, Sedgwick, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Sumner, Thomas, Trego, Wallace and Wichita counties.
While it doesn’t help improve the conditions much, experts have an explanation of why we are under such terrible conditions this year, according to a report from the Associated Press:
“Much of the United States is trapped under a heat ‘dome’ caused by a huge area of high pressure that’s compressing hot, moist air beneath it, leading to miserable temperatures in the mid-90s to low 100s and heat-index levels well above 100 degrees. The oppressive conditions extend from the northern Plains states to Texas and from Nebraska to the Ohio Valley. And they’re expanding eastward.
“‘It’s hot no matter what you’re doing or where you are,’ said Tim Prader, a 50-year-old construction worker who was taking a break Tuesday at a job site in St. Louis. Although his huge Caterpillar excavator has air conditioning, he couldn’t entirely escape. ‘When you’re done for the day, you’re ready to eat, drink and hit the couch.’
“When a high pressure system develops in the upper atmosphere, the air below it sinks and compresses because there’s more weight on top, causing temperatures in the lower atmosphere to heat up, said Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Silver Spring, Md.
“The dome of high pressure also pushes the jet stream and its drier, cooler air, farther north — it’s now well into Canada — while hot, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico circulates clockwise around the dome, traveling farther inland than normal.
“Combined with generally clear skies and the sun’s higher summertime angle, “it gets really hot,” Jacks said.
And the severe heat can bring other dangers, the experts have warned.
“Thunderstorms can develop around the perimeter of the dome — called the “ring of fire” — bringing temporary relief to some areas, said Kevin Birk, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Illinois. But this dome is so large that the heat rebuilds quickly, Birk said.
“While heat domes aren’t uncommon, this one is unusual because of its size and duration. It began three days ago and may last seven to 10 days in some locations. And it’s moving eastward, with temperatures expected to reach 100 degrees in Washington by Thursday.
And the weather has doomed chances for a decent growing season in Kansas.
“In its weekly crop-weather update, Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reports that topsoil and subsoil moisture supplies in the state are both at their lowest levels since November 2006.
“Among the nine reporting districts around the state, the agency said Monday that only the north-central and central districts reported having any surplus topsoil moisture.”
“The U.S. Agriculture Department has approved emergency cutting of hay on Conservation Reserve Program acreage in 21 Kansas counties as the drought deepens.
“The approved counties are Barber, Barton, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Gray, Ford, Harper and Harvey. Also included are Kingman, Kiowa, McPherson, Meade, Morton, Pawnee, Pratt, Reno, Rice, Sedgwick, Seward and Stafford.”

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