Drought rings in the New Year across the Southwest as many areas log up to six months without appreciable rainfall.
Stock tanks are either dry or falling fast. Fall-planted wheat has either not germinated or got just enough rain to poke through the soil and then wither in dry, windy conditions. Wildfires have destroyed rangeland and landscapes, and homes and have accounted for several fatalities in Texas.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicates conditions across most of the South as very dry. NOAA lists most of East Texas, from west of Dallas to the Louisiana state line and south to near College Station, in “extreme drought.” A good portion of the rest of the state is listed in “severe drought.”
Extreme drought conditions extend into Oklahoma with most of the state either extreme or severe. The western edge of Oklahoma is listed as near normal, as is the Texas Panhandle and most of New Mexico.
A small section of far West Texas, around El Paso and extending eastward, is listed in an “unusual moist spell.” The Northeast corner of New Mexico, a small strip along the Texas State line and extending to the Colorado line to the north, is also in that category.
No area in the Southwest is considered extremely moist.
New Mexico did receive steady rains in late December. Rain melted snow pack on some mountain ranges but heavy snow accumulated in higher elevations.
The prolonged drought has taken a toll on winter grains and pastures. “The only small grain rated good has been irrigated,” says a National Agricultural Statistics Service report from Texas. Grazing from small grain plantings has been limited. The report also says livestock operations are providing supplemental feed because of poor pasture and rangeland conditions. And supplemental feed is hard to find in some areas.
In Oklahoma, NASS reports indicate topsoil moisture very short to short over 91 percent of the state. Only 9 percent is listed as adequate. Subsoil moisture is rated very short to short across three-fourths of the state. Wildfire concerns are increasing with continued dry conditions and high winds.
Oklahoma's wheat crop is rated as mostly fair. Hay supplies are mostly adequate except for the East Central and Southeastern areas where supplies are listed as 84 percent and 86 percent below average.
Farmers in the Texas High Plains say conditions are extremely dry as they strip the few remaining fields of cotton but say dry weather is not uncommon for this time of year.