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"Drought Man" Discovered in Lubbock, Tx; Humans and Wildlife Suffer Through Worst Extended Drought in Texas
"Drought Man" Discovered in Lubbock, Tx
As Texas suffers through an extended heat wave and drought, a Lubbock man tried to provide some levity to the very serious conditions that exist. Albert Angel has dubbed his creation, “Drought Man”. To read more about Drought Man and the trip he has made to reach his destination -- water in a fountain in Mr. Angel's yard, click here and here.
Although this picture and its story will bring a smile to your face, the critical conditions that the heat and the drought have caused paint a dramatically different picture. So, you better smile now, because this is as pretty as it gets.
Humans and Wildlife Suffer Through Worst Extended Drought in Texas
It has been unnaturally hot and extremely dry throughout all of Texas. Man and beast are suffering and there appears to be no relief in sight. In fact it is predicted to get worse.
The National Weather Service in Lubbock reports that it is in the middle of its driest period since six months in 1925, and the drought is expected to get worse! The dry conditions are compounded by high winds and low humidity that are so typical in that part of Texas. Lubbock has not seen any significant rainfall since October 2010, ten and a half months ago!
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the entire state is in drought with about 86 percent in severe-to-exceptional levels of drought. Last year (2010), only about 4 percent of Texas was in drought.
Drought in Texas Cause Wildfires to Burn With No End in Sight
In July 2011 it was estimated that some 3.4 million acres have burned in 19,000 fires in Texas over the past five months. And with fires still burning, the statistics will continue to rise. It's so dry that the blistering sun, magnified through the end of a broken Coke or beer bottle, can start a fire.
During the first week in September over 1000 homes were consumed by wildfires, 600 in one incident alone just outside of Austin. And in this week, it is documented that there are currently more than 180 fires burning throughout the state.
Almost all counties in the state are under some type of burn ban, and there is no evidence that the bans will be lifted anytime soon.
Months of nonexistent to very little precipitation has caused water levels to substantially drop in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Springs located in the central Texas Hill Country are the only remaining habitat for some populations of small fish, amphibians and other creatures. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are preparing to catch large samples from the springs in the area to relocate to a hatchery in order to prevent their possible extinction. Texas is home to 86 endangered and threatened species.
All over the state fish are dying from lack of water and low oxygen levels in the waters that do exist. Vegetation is dead and dying causing the animals to suffer from lack of food and water.
Plants and animals in Texas have had to adapt to harsh and extreme conditions, but this drought has been testing the limits of what plants, animals, and humans can endure.
Although this particular picture is of Lake Ray Hubbard in Dallas, it represents many lakes in Texas. This is one of the lakes where Dallas gets its drinking water.
Oakwood Cemetery in Austin would normally be lush and green but not in 2011.
Federal officials are readying plans to evacuate a small number of endangered species in Texas as a severe drought lowers water levels and threatens the survival of rare wildlife in the state's huge ecosystem.
Flames destroy property near Possum Kingdom Lake. Texas National Guard Uh-60 Blackhawk Helicopters were launched out of the Austin Army Aviation Support Facility to help fight the wildfires in North Texas. The aircraft are equipped with a Bambi Bucket, which carries over 600 gallons of water, to fight fires. Photo by SSG Malcolm McClendon.
Even waters along the coast are low and the wildlife suffers, such as these turtles on a log in Elm Lake at Brazos Bend State Park. The recent, ongoing drought, has caused the water level in the lake to be very low. This allows a great deal of slimy moss to grow on the water surface.
This used to be a green pasture where cows could graze. Now, the ranchers walk across the parched dried soil where weeds provide the only color from the grays and browns of baked soil and dead grass at this Culberson County, Texas location.
South Texas is having the worst drought in 50 years. All of the vegetation is on its knees, begging for it to rain.
More Suffering for Humans, Wildlife and Plantlife during Extended Drought in Texas
Eight years after the ill-fated flight of the space shuttle Columbia, debris is being discovered as lakes dry up in Texas.
In the Houston area, trees that have lived for hundreds of years are dying. Large branches are falling to the ground and onto houses, and causing much damage and alarm. One woman described a large tree branch hitting the ground as feeling like an earthquake and sounding like “a humongous bomb”.
Temperatures have been soaring all over the state. When I went outside yesterday it felt almost cool, although the temperature was 103°F. But after temperatures over 110° for so long, 103° did almost feel like a cool front. It was still hot, but it was a welcomed relief.
The drought is strangling agriculture all over the state. Crop losses are estimated to exceed $5 billion, and that figure is expected to grow. This year Texas farmers have lost over half of all their cotton crops. The parched fields are bringing back memories of the great dust bowl in 1933.
Ranchers are finding it difficult to feed their herds, and are forced to sell them at a loss before the starving animals die. Beef prices will go up greatly as ranchers will try to build their herds up once the drought passes.
Some cities such as Austin have gotten to the point where they only allow hand watering during the day. The next stage that they will move into is watering only once a week. Also in Austin restaurants, water is to be served to only those who specifically ask for it! As Austinites try to keep their trees alive, the water bills have become as expensive as their already inflated electricity bills.
Coyotes are coming into towns now and taking dogs and cats. Hawks are swooping into yards trying to nab a chicken from their backyard chicken coops. Skunks and raccoons come in looking for food and water.
Ranchers meet regularly in Fredericksburg to pray for relief from the drought. Many have had to sell much of their stock because they no longer can provide them with food and water.
Ranchers are suffering in the East Texas town of Emory also. Scorching temperatures and a lack of rain have forced many ranchers to sell their stock. Normally, cattle to be sold would be fattened, but the ones that appear for sale are thin, with their ribs showing. Unable to feed them, ranchers are selling 7-10 times more head than they normally would, reducing their herds to virtually nothing. Sadly, East Texas is running out of cows to sell. One rancher stated, “We’ve had that place in our family for 75 years, and it’s never been without water. It’s been without water now since about the 15th of June.” He continued to share that the drought is going to alter the state’s rural economies forever.
That’s a long, long time, and a sad, sad situation.
Texas Farm Bureau Spokesman Gene Hall adds, "I believe there will always be cattle industry in the state of Texas, but restocking those ranches when this ends is going to be a very expensive proposition."
And in the mean time, beef prices will escalate.
Many cities around Texas are faced with something they have never encountered before – the prospect of running out of water. One city outside Dallas recently had its water shut off for two days to fix pipes that had burst because of the shifting (cracking) and hardening soil.
Houston is already tapping into its emergency water supplies. And Lake Conroe just north of Houston, is 19 miles long, and it is drying up. Water levels continue to drop in Lake Conroe as 150 million gallons of water flow out and into Houston homes. Lake Houston, another main water source, is critically low. You can walk half a mile into what used to be Lake Houston and not get wet.
This severe drought falls at the feet of La Nina. Drought in the Southwest and floods in the Midwest and South are the classic signature of La Nina. This year's La Nina is the 6th strongest on record since 1949.
The drought has even had a perverse effect on rabies in the state. Seven months into 2011, the number of rabies is at an all-time high. In 2010, the state reported 387 rabies cases for the whole year. This year already, with 5 months more to go, Texas has had 591 cases of rabies reported. Skunks appear to be the biggest carriers.
The skunks are being force to venture further than usual to find food and water. They are coming into residential areas more than usual. Not being able to find water, their desperation causes them to be aggressive and bite each other, spreading the disease.
Officials recommend that the public should avoid contact with wild animals especially if they are behaving strangely. Pet owners need to make sure that their animals are up to date on all their vaccines. And finally, keep pet food inside, especially overnight, so that the animals are not encouraged to remain in the area.
One of the rehabilitation specialists shared a sentiment that I totally agree with. She said, “I always give rabies a big healthy dose of respect.” Sounds like good advice to me.
High winds and dry conditions make it difficult to get the fires under control. In the picture above, a U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service King Air lead plane guides a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing during firefighting operations in Scurry County, Texas, April 27. The lead planes guide aircraft to ensure that the fire retardant is dispensed where it is needed.
Real People Sharing Real Feelings about the Drought in Texas
A blog about the drought conditions had the following comments:
- I have a ranch … and it is terrible for my neighbors who run cattle. The grass is long gone. If we do not get real rain soon there will be no acorns and therefore no feed for game animals this winter. It could get real ugly in a few more months.
- My heart reaches out to all ranchers and farmers in Texas. I pray for saving rains to drench the earth so that our water supply will be refreshed and grain and food for all men, birds, and animals will grow. Lord, please bless us with your love and gifts from heaven.
- My heart is sick…and it’s going to get worse. I am down to 15 head and 6 calves … I lost the pasture over 8 weeks ago. I am broke.
- It has been a hard year on all us ranchers. I raise goats and it pains me to watch them die from the heat and there is nothing I can do…
Lake Travis 2011
If you would like to see a slide show sequence created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife about Lake Travis near Austin in mid 2011, click here.
2011 Texas Drought Affects Most of State
Although there have been many droughts worse than the one we are now facing, none of them have ever come close to affecting as much of the state as this drought as done.
There is much speculations that much of Texas will still be suffering from this drought 12 months from now, making water shortages even more dangerous at that time.
"Best thing is to get some rain," said Jeff Walker, director of project development for the Texas Water Development Board. "That would solve everything." Amen.
Monotonous Heat and Drought
This is the happy note at the end. The photographer was amused by this picture, stating, " ...we were both amused by the message and by the fact that they used an emoticon smiley instead of a normal smiley."
I sure could use a good rain to wash the dust off of me too!
Growing up in Texas, and its unpredictable weather, I always heard the saying, "If you don't like the weather now, just wait a couple days, it'll change." After all this monotonous heat and drought, it's time for a change.
Unfortunately, I have relatives who farm and ranch all over the state, and they are hurting. Having grown up on a farm, I am all too easily empathizing with them. I don't know what some of them are going to do, and unfortunately neither do they.
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Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)
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- The 2011 Texas Drought in a Historical Context | Pew Center on Global Climate Change
- Drought Puts Texas Ranchers, And Cattle, At Risk : NPR
- Amid Texas drought, a water war brews - CBS News
- Why Texas\' Drought May Have Global Effects - TIME
- Drought attracts skunks, increases rabies outbreak - KCBD, NewsChannel 11 Lubbock
- Drought Man crawls across Lubbock man\'s yard - KCBD, NewsChannel 11 Lubbock