Drought expanded in the Pacific Northwest and developed in parts of the Midwest and southern Plains during July, the hottest month ever recorded, as global temperatures slightly exceeded the previous July record set in 2016. Heat and dry conditions took a toll on summer crops, significantly contributing to the 76 impacts added to the Drought Impact Reporter in July. Texas had 15 impacts, documenting agricultural issues and burn bans as the fire danger rose. North Carolina, Washington and Alaska followed with 12, 12, and 11 impacts, respectively, describing crop damage and short water supplies.
July confirmed as hottest month recorded, by Isabelle Gerretsen, CNN, Aug. 5, 2019
Texas ag concerns growing
Texas began July with just a few spots of abnormal dryness, but those expanded as the month progressed. Rangelands and pastures in the southwest were affected early in the month, but similar concerns became more widespread. In parts of far west and south Texas, cattle producers continued to haul water and offer supplemental feed to cattle as drought depleted natural food and water sources.
County commissioners began enacting burn bans in Texas in the latter part of July as conditions became drier and warranted caution with fire to reduce the likelihood of wildfires.
Texas Crop and Weather Report - July 9, 2019, by Adam Russell, North Texas e-News (Fannin, Texas), July 9, 2019
Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 16, 2019, by Adam Russell, AgriLife Today (Bryan, Texas), July 16, 2019
Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 22, 2019, by Adam Russell, AgriLife Today (Bryan, Texas), July 23, 2019
Texas Crop and Weather Report – July 30, 2019, by Adam Russell, AgriLife Today (Bryan, Texas), July 30, 2019
Eastern North Carolina crops stunted, lost
Eastern North Carolina remained dry, with crop damage occurring as the rain stayed away. In some areas, corn stopped growing. Vegetables were sunburned, making them less marketable. A Carteret County farmer lost yield on several varieties of sweet corn, possibly 50 percent, costing him tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs.
Drought conditions in Pender County damaged crops, especially corn. Some of the corn was about two feet shorter than normal, and some farmers lost half of their corn crop. Other crops were also stunted because of heat and scarce rain.
In Pitt County, the field corn was partially to completely lost in some fields. Sweet potatoes, soybeans, tobacco, peanuts and cotton were also affected by the hot, dry weather as the growth of all crops was slowed. As of mid-July, peanuts had not grown enough to close the gaps between the rows, as the plants were smaller than usual. Cotton plants were also shorter than normal.
ENC Farmers Losing Crops To Drought, by Jared Brumbaugh, Public Radio East (New Bern, North Carolina), July 12, 2019
Major Crop Growth Stunted Due to Drought Conditions, by Spectrum News (Wilmington, North Carolina), July 10, 2019
Pitt County crops hit hard by hot, dry weather, by Karen Eckert, Greenville Daily Reflector (North Carolina), July 13, 2019
Washington water supplies short
Water supplies were short in parts of Washington because of low reservoir carryover from the fall, poor winter precipitation and a warm spring. Drought emergencies remained in effect for 27 watersheds, mostly in the western part of the state.
In the Yakima River basin in southern Washington, junior water rights holders got 67 percent of a full supply for irrigation after the Bureau of Reclamation updated its forecast on July 3. Senior water rights holders still received a full allotment.
The lack of water and ongoing impacts from the 2015 drought meant fewer fish in the Upper and Lower Yakima and Naches watersheds. The Department of Ecology was monitoring the water levels and temperatures and were noticing fewer fish migrating up the Yakima Basin, due to higher water temperatures.
Forecast: Water supply for junior water rights holders now at 67%, by Yakima Herald-Republic (Washington), July 3, 2019
Fish and Wildlife helping fish survive drought, by Trisha McCauley, KIMA CBS 29 (Yakima, Washington), July 2, 2019
Fish were also in trouble in Kitsap County in northwest Washington. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed fishing in the Chehalis River and its tributaries to protect spring chinook salmon, as low flows threaten the fish.
Drought continues with fear of fire throughout Western Washington, by Christopher Dunagan, Kitsap Sun (Bremerton, Washington), July 5, 2019
Alaska fires, water supplies and agriculture
Drought and an overwhelming number of wildfires prompted numerous burn bans in Alaska for the Fourth of July. Because of the hot, dry weather and elevated fire danger, fireworks were banned statewide as the month began. Some communities also canceled fireworks displays.
The drought also meant water conservation was needed. Residents of Juneau were asked to conserve water as demand slightly exceeded production capacity during the hot, dry weather. People were asked to curb water use for garden watering and vehicle and boat washing.
Kenai Peninsula farmers had to irrigate their crops more frequently, and some wells went dry. Some of the crops grown on the Kenai Peninsula include peonies, vegetables and hay.
Bans, cancellations and where to see fireworks in Alaska this Independence Day, by Kayla Heffner, KTVA (Anchorage, Alaska), July 1, 2019
Juneau residents asked to conserve water as dry conditions persist, by Adelyn Baxter, KTOO Public Media (Juneau, Alaska), July 3, 2019
Moderate drought hits the Kenai Peninsula, by Renee Gross, KBBI-AM 890 Homer (Alaska), July 24, 2019
Midwest crops need rain
The Midwest and other parts of the U.S. had excessively wet springs, which made fields too wet for farmers to plant, delaying or even preventing planting. Crops’ root systems did not need to grow deep to access water, leaving plants with shallow roots, which did not serve them well when hotter, drier weather arrived. Soil compaction was also an issue. During July, despite the wet spring and flooding, soils began to dry out, leaving Midwestern farmers wishing for rain again.
For more details, see the Drought Impact Reporter.