July 6, 2011
Extreme drought conditions have parts of Kansas in a state of disaster. The drought is killing crops and increasing fire danger. In Harper County, the conditions are forcing farmers to harvest dying crops early, and sell cattle they can't feed.
Randy Blanchat let us ride along as he cut corn in his field. He explained the difference of the physical condition of his crops this year as compared to last.
"It'd be a beautiful sight out here but now it's not. [It's] just dry," said Blanchat.
The conditions are forcing Blanchat to cut his crop in July, which would usually be a job that would wait until September. However, by September he's afraid there won't be anything left.
"I've lived here all my life. This is about as bad as I've seen it," said Blanchat.
It's the same for farmers across Harper County dealing with not only failing crops, but dry ponds and streams. The U.S. Drought Monitor ranks all of the county in at least extreme drought conditions, with the southern portion in an exceptional state of drought.
"It's just hard to put into terms until you're out here and you're seeing dust in the fields instead of stuff growing," said Harper County Emergency Manager Thomas Winter.
"You spend all year getting to this point and you just watch it wither away and there's nothing you can really do about it," said Harper County Extension Office Ag Agent Brian Waldschmidt.
It's not just farmers facing the problem. Firefighters are also battling the conditions with Harper County seeing 56 fires in just 36 days.
"It makes for a really difficult situation but we just have to hope and pray for rain," said Winter.
And hoping and praying for rain, is exactly what many across the county are already doing.
"A lot of the folks everyday, day in day out, this is what's their bread and butter," said Waldschmidt.
"Oh it's frustrating but there's always worse," said Blanchat. "I don't care how bad it gets it could always be worse."
But those relying on rain hope it doesn't get worse, even as the hottest summer months may still be to come.