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Archive for Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Dry weather stresses vegetation in much of Kansas

August 8, 2006

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Hot and dry conditions Monday continued to plague much of the state.

"Kansas needs rain," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said as she called for a meeting Aug. 18 of the Drought Response Team to review actions the government can take to help with the drought.

Sebelius has instructed state agencies to reduce lawn watering.

The stress on vegetation in Kansas could be seen from space, where satellite maps showed about half the state was experiencing increased heat-stress levels, according to the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program at Kansas University.

"There are several areas where vegetation is under stress," said research analyst John Lomas.

"Overall it's kind of average. Maybe in a month of hot and dry weather, vegetation conditions will worsen."

According to the map, Hodgeman, Harper and Wabaunsee counties are showing some of the more severe stress levels in the state.

In other actions, the Kansas Farm Service Agency reported that emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres has been approved in 38 counties, mostly in western Kansas.

Water has been released from the Council Grove reservoir and Cedar Bluff Reservoir to benefit downstream users.

This map from Kansas Applied Remote Sensing shows the impact of heat and drought on crops in Kansas.

This map from Kansas Applied Remote Sensing shows the impact of heat and drought on crops in Kansas.

Several communities have imposed water-use restrictions, and many have put in place burn bans.

Sebelius said she is concerned about grass fires and damage to crops, rangeland and pasture conditions.

Last week, much of the Midwest endured mostly dry conditions with temperatures rising to record or near-record levels, according to the National Weather Service.

The federal government's U.S. Drought Monitor has designated central and southeastern Kansas as being in a moderate drought and the rest of the state, including Douglas County, under abnormally dry conditions.

In Jefferson County Monday, a stray bolt of lightning set hay bales on fire - another sign of a long, dry summer. The county enacted a burn ban Monday, although Douglas and Franklin counties had yet to do so.

"There's just nothing out there" in the way of moisture, said Don Haynes, Jefferson County Emergency Management director.

Haynes said the county banned outdoor fires, such as field burnings and campfires, because any little spark could send grasslands burning out of control.

Those conditions make fighting a blaze difficult, he said.

In central and western Kansas, drought reduced streamflows in July below levels from the record droughts of the 1930s and 1950s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Even so, regionally, Kansas is surrounded by areas with worse conditions. Eastern Colorado and nearly all of Nebraska and western Missouri are experiencing severe drought. Much of Oklahoma and north and southwest Texas are in extreme drought.

- Staff writer Ron Knox contributed to this report.

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