Experts warn that ongoing southwest drought will linger

1:21 PM, Sep 16, 2011   |    comments
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For cattle ranchers like Phil Sadler, it's hard to imagine the news about this historic drought getting worse.

"There's a little despair when we sit down at night to eat some supper," he said. "There's not a lot of jokes and not a lot of funny remarks. It's just sort of a serious atmosphere."

A puddle is all that remains of his farm pond, and now Sadler is hearing forecasters now say the country's southern mid-section will stay dry, maybe through next year.

"The pattern across the southern plains is going to be very dry right through the end of the year, we need 15 to 20 inches of rain in Texas to turn things around and it doesn't look like that's going to happen," Weather Channel Meteorologist Carl Parker said.

Practically all of Texas is in either exceptional or extreme drought, devastating not just the cattle industry but other areas of agriculture where losses already top $5 billion.

"The worst cash losses on record, and we're facing the worst wildfire season in the history of the Lone Star state," Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.

The drought is helping fuel up to 50 new wildfires a day in Texas.

Monitoring maps show Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and much of the Southeast suffering as well.

States unaffected by the hot, dry weather are offering help.

Arkansas hay grower Jamie Stiles is shipping a load to a Texas rancher.

"The stories you hear from down there, he said it's like a horror movie, just really bad," Stiles said.

The rest of the country will soon see the effects of the drought through higher prices at the grocery store.

(Copyright © 2011 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)

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