The number of Kansas counties in drought (from watch to emergency status) rose to 80 last week when Gov. Sam Brownback added three more counties – Franklin, Miami and Osage, to the watch list.
Even though a welcome break from 100-degree heat came over the Labor Day weekend as highs dropped into the 80s, day after day of sunshine continue, providing no relief from persistent drought.
Eighteen counties moved from drought watch, the least severe status, to drought warning which indicates that conditions have moved from a threat to a reality.
The counties that moved to warning status from watch status include Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Chase, Chautauqua, Greenwood, Labette, Linn, Lyon, Marion, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson.
Two counties, Sedgwick and Harvey, moved from drought warning to drought emergency in the Sept. 2 declaration.
Counties that were already on the emergency list include Barber, Clark, Comanche, Harper, Kingman, Kiowa, Meade, Morton, Pratt, Reno, Seward, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens and Sumner.
The intensifying drought, accompanied by 100-plus degree heat created high fire danger across much of Kansas and has resulted in more than $1.6 billion in agricultural losses.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts completed a tour of the drought areas in Reno and Kingman counties while in south-central Kansas for a 2012 Farm Bill Field Hearing in late August.
Testimony at the Farm Bill hearing made it clear that hard-hit Kansas farmers rely heavily on crop insurance programs to help them survive years such as 2011 and that conservation programs, largely possible because of federal farm policy, have prevented the current drought from resulting in a dust bowl equal to the "Dirty Thirties" in Kansas.
Conditions have actually been worse than the 1930s for much of Kansas. Drought in the west has been more persistent and more severe than the dust bowl and 2011 has now broken the record as the hottest summer on record in south central Kansas, surpassing the 50 days of 100-plus temperatures recorded in 1936 with 53 days above the century mark this year.
Counties that were joined on the drought warning list include Barton, Bulter, Cowley, Edwards, Finney, Ford, Gove, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Lane, Logan, Mcpherson, Ness, Pawnee, Rice, Scott, Trego, Wallace and Wichita.
Continuing in drought watch are Cheyenne, Decatur, Dickinson, Ellis, Ellsworth, Graham, Lincoln, Norton, Ottawa, Philips, Rawlins, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Saline, Sheridan, Sherman, and Thomas.