Friday, March 13, 2009

Dry start to 2009 sets U.S. record

The first two months of 2009 are the driest start of any year since the USA began keeping records over a century ago, leading to severe drought in Texas, dipping reservoir levels in Florida and a surge in wildfires across the nation. Farmers, cattlemen, firefighters and others worry that the dry start may be a harbinger of a bleak summer that could lead to increasing risk of fire and poor crop conditions. Cattle rancher Jim Selman of Gonzales, Texas, has sold all but 30 of his 300 to 400 breeding cows because his pasture is too dry to feed them. "It might take me 10 years or more to get back where I was," he says. "It's so dry." Richard Heim, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center, said the 2.69-inch average rainfall across the U.S. in January and February is the least amount of moisture in those months since NOAA began keeping records in 1895. So far this year, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise has logged 11,814 wildfires, the most for any two-month period in a decade and almost 3,700 more than the average. The dry spell extends a drought that has hammered Central Texas since 2007 and California and the Southeast since 2006...USA Today

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