A massive drought gripping Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota has caught farmers and ranchers off-guard and could cost farmers and ranchers up to $1 billion.
The “flash drought” was not predicted as recently as three months ago and is said to “come from nowhere.” It is said to be a very intense drought as the U.S. Drought Monitor recently upgraded the intensity of it from “extreme” to “exceptional” — the most severe ranking of the organization.
According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the crop production in all three states will be affected and may decrease dramatically.
The unexpected drought has created anxiety among farmers and ranchers, who were not prepared to deal with it. Since late April, rainfall across the affected region has also been less than half of normal.
“If we get some rain we'll have some corn and soybeans, but at this point it doesn't look very promising,” said farmer John Weinand.
Rancher Dawn Martin and her husband also added that due to the extreme weather conditions, they were forced to sell off one-third of their cattle herd.
“It’s devastating. We’re at the bottom of the barrel. For many areas, it’s the worst we’ve seen in 100 years,” said Tanja Fransen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Glasgow, Montana.
Montana resident Sarah Swanson also shared her experience, stating, “The damage and the destruction is just unimaginable. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in decades.”
As a result of the extreme weather conditions, there have already been at least 17 wildfires across the region.
“We haven’t even hit our normal peak fire season yet,” Fransen noted.
Even if rain comes, farmers and ranchers are worried it may cause flash floods — just another problem for them to deal with.
Flash floods and flash droughts are expected to occur more often now. This comes as President Donald Trump recently withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and continues to deny climate change.
Extreme droughts like these are closely related to climate change. Abnormally dry conditions across the western parts of the country are becoming more common due to higher temperatures. As a result of higher evaporation rates, rainfall also has also become erratic.
Spotlight, Banner: Reuters, Jon Nazca