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Drought is over? I’m not saying

I’ve been tempted for more than a month now to declare an end to the drought that has held the Southwest in a vise-like grip for the better part of four years.

I’ve seen evidence. I’ve been rained on; I’ve stepped in ankle-deep puddles; I have accumulated gobs of mud inside and outside of my once pristine white pickup; I have sat in a metal building listening to the rain drumming a resonant rhythm on the roof.

I’ve seen low spots on the High Plains turn into lakes; I’ve stopped on the side of the road to shoot photos of water running through field rows; I’ve seen lush green fields of cotton, corn and milo.

Reports have come in all summer about spots of rain across the territory. Folks in San Angelo received up to 14 inches back in May. Some High Plains areas were inundated with close to 10 inches on several occasions this summer. South Texas endured torrents from tropical storms. Farmers had to replant flooded-out and hailed-out fields. Some had to abandon mature crops just before harvest. And, more recently, cotton farmers report regrowth on cotton that should be near mature. Lighter shades of green peek out from the darker, more mature foliage, indicating the plants are taking advantage of September rainfall to leaf out a bit more and offer farmers a tad more complexity as they try to determine the best time to defoliate.

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So, observing all this wetness, I have been tempted to declare an end to the drought. Supporting this theory is the latest Texas Drought Monitor report that indicates, for the first time in more than three years, less than half the state remains in moderate to exceptional drought. Surely that good news calls for a declaration; surely someone should clang some cymbals and announce that the drought is over; surely the governors should prepare proclamations.

Or I could just do it.

But I won’t. For one thing, my degrees in English literature provide no basis for attempting to predict weather, even if I see dark clouds, hear great claps of thunder and watch streaks of lightning set the skies on fire. Weather is beyond my bailiwick.

If someone from NOAA or even the Weather Channel wants to go on record declaring the drought is over, I will report that, but, even then with some reluctance. Maybe I’m a little superstitious. Maybe I’m a bit over-cautious. Drought has become such a constant over much of the past decade it’s hard to believe that it will loosen its grasp on Southwest agriculture.

I did mention that less than 50 percent of Texas remains in moderate to exceptional drought. That’s good news, but those numbers also indicate that 40-something percent of the state is still too dry. Some of that area remains in exceptional drought and some of that drought-plagued territory extends up into Oklahoma. Folks in those dry pockets might not take kindly to being told that the drought is over as they watch wells dry up, reservoirs continue to lose water and crops fail to flourish.

Consequently, I plan no declarations, proclamations or festivals to celebrate the end of drought. But I now keep an umbrella in my truck.



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