Last year the Wyoming headlines read:
“North Platte River reaches record high at Saratoga”
“Platte River floods still threaten; half of record snow pack has yet to melt”
“North Platte River Flooding 2011”
“Planning, weather help Casper avoid flooding”
“River keeps rising”
“Casper preparing for high water levels”
And this year, in the recent headlines we read:
“Citing drought, Wyoming governor seeks disaster declaration” and
“Farmers whose crops damaged by armyworms eligible for relief.”
The onslaught of armyworms is also weather related.
If there is one thing Wyomingites understand, it is extremes in weather.
Last year much of the state experienced 200% and even 300% of average April snowpack. This year most of the state was below 50% snowpack for the same month.
We drove through the Lusk area this weekend. This is usually an area of green rolling hills of mixed grass prairie similar to the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. What we saw was dry, brown, and looked like the grass never grew.
Low rangeland grass production means many ranchers will be forced to feed hay much earlier than usual, or sell off part of their herds. Agriculture is tough in the arid west, even on those ranchers who are producing a product best suited to this part of the nation.
Crops under irrigation, of course, are fairing much better, and in terms of timing (growth stage), are ahead compared to yearly averages.
Hand in hand with hot and dry weather are wildland fires. Just a few days ago a grass fire spread into a developed area in Casper and destroyed four homes. The Russell Camp fire, just a few miles south and east of Casper, grew about 2000 acres this weekend and is currently over 5000 acres. Hopefully the lower winds today helped the fire fighters get more fire line built to contain the fire.
If you are interested in the latest information on wildland fires in the US, a good place to check is the InciWeb site.