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"Flash Drought" envelopes Eastern US

Written by Jeff Ishee, On The Farm Radio

June 27, 2024 - Some meteorologists are calling it a "flash drought." They explain that what eastern farmers are seeing this summer is similar to a flash flood in that "it came out of nowhere."

Drought conditions in the Eastern US.

Graphics and data courtesy of US Drought Monitor

Many farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia were experiencing a good growing season - until the month of June rolled around. Some farmers in Virginia specifically, reported they were harvesting some of the finest hay they had ever seen.

In South Carolina, crop conditions were looking relatively good in late May. The crop progress report for May 26 indicated 70 percent of SC pastures were in "good condition," while 8 percent were in "excellent" condition. Topsoil moisture that same week in South Carolina was rated as 68 percent "adequate" and 3 percent "surplus."

Current drought conditions in Virginia. One week made a dramatic difference.

Graphics and data courtesy of US Drought Monitor

Then things turned dry in early June. The most recent (June 23) crop condition report in Tennessee indicates farmers in the Volunteer State "experienced mostly hot and dry weather again last week with a few pop-up showers over the weekend. Producers are hard at work wrapping up winter wheat harvest and planting double-crop soybeans. The high heat and dry soils are causing some corn stands to twist, though overall across the state the crop remains in decent condition. More precipitation is sorely needed for pasture regrowth and crop progression."

The most recent crop condition report from North Carolina indicates that 55 percent of the corn crop was in "poor" or "very poor" condition. Twenty-eight percent of NC soybeans were also rated in "poor" or "very poor" condition.

Officials at the US Drought Monitor had this to say about current conditions in the Southeastern Region:

"Throughout most of the Southeast, rainfall has been largely lacking over the past 3 to 4 weeks. Additionally, much of the region has experienced several heat waves over the past month, resulting in rapidly deteriorating conditions leading up to and including last week. Soil moisture, stream flows, and several derived drought indices are worsening by the day. Impacts are widespread, particularly in the agricultural sector, as pastures and rangelands are going dormant or turning brown, increasing livestock concerns as well. Several reports that crop yields are also in danger if the region doesn’t get any meaningful rainfall soon. High evapotranspiration (i.e. the evaporation of moisture from land and vegetation) rates are rapidly drying out soils and vegetation, increasing fire concerns."

Graphic provided by National Weather Service


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