The word drought is beginning to take over the conversation in Kansas.
On Sunday, Wichita recorded its first 100-plus degree day of 2014. That’s May 4 folks. It set records. The highest temperature on May 4 was 94 back in 1960. Going along with this is the fact that we have the driest start to a year since 1936. Since Jan. 1, drought-stricken Wichita has had less than 2 inches of rain compared a normal rainfall of about 7.5 inches.
Along with Sunday’s 102 degrees came winds of 30 mph with gusts to 40 mph in the afternoon. It was blow-torch conditions on an already drought stressed 2014 wheat crop.
This would maybe just be interesting reporting if it weren’t so deadly serious for the Kansas agriculture industry. The wheat crop that was already stressed a week ago is facing a really rough week ahead – temps in the 90s, winds in the 30s gusting to 40 – with no rain in sight. Even our amazing forecast cool-down on Thursday – all the way to a high of 78 – comes with a whopping 20 percent chance of rain.
This mirrors the systems that have moved through the area over the last couple of weeks that have brought wild swings in temperatures and even a threat of a freeze less than a week ago but brought no moisture at all. A drop in temperatures from upper 80s to low 40s without a hint of precipitation is not a good thing.
Most farmers are hoping that 2014 isn’t turning another 2011 when the first 100-degree day in May turned into 53 days of temperatures above 100 degrees. Or another year like 2012 when extreme drought spread from western and southern Kansas across the entire Midwest.
It is almost impossible not to make those comparisons while sitting in my dining room with the air conditioning on high during the first week of May. So I just keep watching the weather forecast and hoping for a sign of a rain cloud.