Topeka — The drought has become so severe that Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday warned Kansans against lighting outdoor fires.
"This is a powder keg situation," Brownback said as he convened a meeting to gather information and come up with ideas to help Kansans affected by the drought.
Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman said the drought was devastating. "If you analyze this thing, we are in a major disaster," Rodman said. He added, "We are basically in a constant tornado and we don't see the end of it."
All 105 Kansas counties are covered by a drought disaster declaration and 68, including Douglas County, have imposed bans on outside burning.
In addition to state officials, Brownback gathered ranchers, firefighters, and city officials on the front lines of dealing with the drought to talk about the toll the drought is taking and identify ways to cope with it.
One rancher at the meeting suggested a statewide burn ban, but later Brownback said he would rather local officials make the call on whether to ban outdoor burning in their own areas.
Brownback said he'll also look into harvesting grass along state highway right of ways and at Cedar Crest, his official residence, to provide forage for livestock producers whose supplies are short.
The dry conditions have led to more wildfires, water restrictions, devastated crops, shutdown ethanol plants. Ranchers said the drought is causing a shortage of feed for livestock, which is increasing their costs.
Jerry McReynolds of Woodston, who is chairman of the State Board of Agriculture, said the those increased costs will eventually appear at the supermarket. "This is a feed issue. It will become a food issue," he said.
The state has launched a website, www.Drought.ks.gov, to provide a resource on drought information.
State Climatologist Mary Knapp said Kansas is in the center of an extreme drought that covers much of the country. Knapp said it may take years of average rainfall amounts to get back to normal.