I was driving home from the office last night when I noticed a large tree along the way. It is a beautifully shaped tree and in the fall turns a brilliant orange. It is indeed one of my favorite trees in the neighborhood. As I neared it in my car it looked to me like the leaves were changing color which is improbably at this time of year. As I came upon the tree I could see that the leaves on the outermost ends of the limbs were changing color. The color wasn't that bold orange of the fall, but rather a weak brown tinge. The tree was dying. The tree is dying I should say. This isn't a small tree either, but a large proud tree and it is beginning to give way to the heat and drought of this summer.
This drought actually started last year in the late summer and early fall. It wasn't overly hot last year, but it was dry. Then again, August usually is dry in Missouri and I didn't think of it as a drought back then. The winter of last year and early this year then came upon us. It was an extremely dry winter. I did not have to take my snow shovel out of the garage once last winter. The was not anything to shovel. We had a few very light snows here and there, but seldom over an inch at a time. It wasn't that cold last winter either.
The rivers and farms and the general area of Missouri depends on at least a couple of good heavy snowfalls each winter to keep things going. That didn't happen last winter. It was nice driving all winter long not having to worry about driving in a snow storm or anything, but that lack of snow was setting us up for what we are now experiencing in Missouri.
In the spring of this year we had a few showers in late April and early May. They were not the soaking kind of rains though. Thunderstorms were few and far between. and while it stayed wet enough to have to mow the yard, it was like mowing in June or July rather than April or May. The grass did not need a weekly mowing. You could easily go two weeks without mowing and the yard would still not be too high. That was the sign that things were not going well this summer.
June was dry. I do not any facts or figures that I am going to throw at you, I am just going to give you how it felt from my perspective. June was a little warmer than normal and towards the end of June we started to hit temperatures in the triple digits once in awhile. As June drug on the over a hundred degree days came more often until by the time July came around, we were virtually in a non stop oven in Missouri.
The whole month of July has been dry. Very dry. It has also been hot. Extremely hot. We spent what seemed like the majority of June over a hundred degrees every day. We have had some breaks in the high temperatures with the air cooling down to like ninety-seven or ninety-eight, but never much lower than that. The rains still have not come.
It is now August first. The official beginning of the Dog Days of Summer in Missouri. August is supposed to be hot and dry. That is just what August is here in Missouri. Hot, dry and humid. Today, being the first day of the dog days, the temperature is forecast to be one hundred and three degrees, the same as it was yesterday. There is not much relief in sight as the forecast continues to show triple digits with a small chance of some very scattered rains around the state. The drought is not ending.
While I usually walk out in my front yard barefoot most of the summer, this year has been different. The yard is yellow and lays flat. the usual soft blades of grass are like small sticks that crunch under your feet as you walk. The front yard looks like someone has spread hay all over it. The soil that usually hugs my sidewalk and my house is slowly pulling away from them. I need to start watering my house now to keep it from flooding when ever the rains do return, if they do.
I went out and looked at the wooded area across the tracks from my office. I looked at them very closely. The leaves on the branches of those trees are turning into a pale green to light brown. Usually those trees stay a bright green until the middle of September.
The days of this summer have been pushing towards records not seen in this state since the Dust Bowl years. It has been cooler in Arizona than in Missouri. The entire state, every square inch of Missouri has been declared a natural disaster area. We have been extremely lucky not to have any wild fires break out in the state. Then again, there haven't been very many lightning strikes to trigger any fires in the state.
When a news reporter goes out to a scene of an accident or another newsworthy event, you can see the corn fields in the background. They are not even close to green. Corn that usually stands between six and seven feet tall are at best five feet tall. For the Missouri farmer, the corn crop is finished and they are already starting to harvest the corn for feed for animals. Very little Missouri corn will make it to dinner tables this year and that means the price is going to go up.
It isn't only the corn crop that has suffered but all the crops are suffering. I am not sure about the cotton crop in southern Missouri and what it looks like but I am sure it is a smaller crop than usual. Missouri depends on the farms to help fill the State's coffers. That is going to be tough to do this year. We have state elections this November and the politicians are trying to figure out a way to save the Missouri economy and the Missouri farmers from going under. Right now from where I stand, it is a losing battle that they are trying to win.
August is just beginning. The "Dog Days" have arrived. July is behind us now and so we look towards the stifling heat, humidity and dryness that August always brings. It is hard to imagine that things are going to get any better any time soon. The best we can hope for right now is that the fall rains that usually start showing up in early October arrive as scheduled and we have a winter that returns snowfall to the region.
The Missouri River is very low. Right now, an annual canoe/kayak race that runs from downtown Kansas City on the Missouri all the way to St Charles, a suburb of St. Louis, is being ran. The river is so low that the usually wide channel of the river has narrowed somewhat, making it difficult to ride the river without getting into some low areas.
The state has been borrowing water from the northern Missouri River valley to try to help the farmers, but it appears to be to little too late. If the winter coming up is dry once again, and spring turns into a mini summer again, and next summer is similar to this one, another dust bowl is not out of the question..
The nature of the state of Missouri is dying. It is a slow gruesome death. The state needs relief. Sure they need relief from the governments that over see it all, but they need relief that governments or men can not control. Missouri needs relief from nature, or for nature. The state and the people that live here, particularly the farmers, need provisions from God if He so wills it.
Never the less, whether relief is on it's way or not, the state of Missouri will survive. It's citizens will survive and we will find a way to help each other through this terrible drought that has hit us hard. We are tough here in Missouri. We have proven that time after time over our history. Still, we all would welcome a little help from God to help us get through this.