Storm Team 12: Dealing with the drought
by Ross Janssen
Storm Team 12
7:19 PM CST, February 14, 2013
As Kansas waits for rain and snow, many wonder what will happen if the extremely dry conditions continue.
One of the major contributing factors of this drought is La Nina. When the ocean temperatures near the equator are colder than normal, it has a tendency to force the jet stream, or storm track, well north into Canada. High pressure was stuck over the central US. The rain stayed away and temperatures soared to record levels for the 2nd year in a row. Need proof of how bad drought conditions are right now? Look no further than area lakes. Water levels at Cheney Lake are down almost eight feet. At Kanopolis, water levels are down nearly six feet and at Wilson Lake, they are down four feet. Most of the lakes have had to close their boat ramps because it's so dry.
There's also concern that climate change may be to blame for the current drought. "It has happened in the past. 1956 was the end of a five year period that saw a cumulative rainfall deficit of 60 inches," said State Climatologist Mary Knapp.
She says another concern in these dry times is more demand for water. "Irrigated lawns and pools, and then you get into commercial and industrial use. So you not only look to the available water supply, but also the demand being placed on the water supply," she said. That's what's prompting the City of Wichita to consider water restrictions. The city council is supposed to discuss the issue later this month. It will take several rounds of spring and summer rains to get Kansas out of this drought. From January 1st of 2011 to the end of 2012, Salina was over 21 inches below on rainfall. Dodge City was 16 inches below average and Wichita was down more than 14 inches. "It may take as long to get out as it took to get in," said Knapp.
"I could see a large what looked like a thunderstorm, only it was not black. It was brown, it was dirt," said lifelong farmer Alvin Herbers. It's a party of history only a few actually remember, but many have studied. Now the hope is that the Dust Bowl is not repeated. "Well it was bad back then, I was born in 26, so I wasn't very old when the Dust Bowl was moving in," Herbers said.
Herbers admits he was too young to remember everything. But he does remember family trips to Guymon, Oklahoma to see his uncle. That's when he saw just how dusty western Kansas and Oklahoma were. "It covered up machinery and everything along the fence rows. Cattle could walk where they wanted to because dirt was so high," he said.
Today with more than 90% of the Plains states suffering from drought conditions, some wonder if we'll see those giant dust storms again. "I don't think we will have the dust storms near like that. We'll have the drought which is the problem now. It's different now than what the actual Dust Bowl was because of modern machinery," Herbers said.
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