The heat wave struck at an inopportune time for crops, resulting in a broad expansion of D0A. In Pennsylvania, the portion of the corn crop rated in very poor to poor condition jumped from 11 to 30% between July 17 and 24. During the same period, Missouri noted an increase from 16 to 22%. By July 24, the portion of pastures rated in very poor to poor condition stood at 62% in Pennsylvania and 53% in Maryland. Nearly all (92%) of Pennsylvania’s topsoil moisture was rated very short to short, along with 80% in Maine, 73% in New York, 72% in Michigan, and 53% in Indiana.
The Southeast: Scattered showers helped to offset the effects of heat in some areas. Rainfall was heaviest in the central Gulf Coast region and along the western slopes of the central and southern Appalachians, resulting in some modest improvements in the drought depiction. Meanwhile, short-term dryness (D0A) began to push northeastward across the Mid-South, reaching into central Missouri and western sections of Kentucky and Tennessee. In Arkansas, nearly two-thirds (66%) of the pastures were rated in very poor to poor condition on July 24, while topsoil moisture was 86% very short to short. Ft. Smith, Arkansas, reported 22 consecutive days of 100°F heat (and counting) from July 5-26, shattering its previous record of 17 days in July 1934. In the Southeast, some lingering poor crop conditions were noted on July 24. In Alabama, for example, nearly one-third of the peanuts (32%) and cotton (33%) were rated very poor to poor. On the same date, 37% of Georgia’s cotton was rated very poor to poor. In Florida, concern still exists for Lake Okeechobee, which had an average surface elevation of 10.26 feet on July 26. This level is 3.71 feet below the level observed a year earlier, on July 26, 2010.
The Central and Southern Plains: Disastrously hot, dry conditions persisted across much of the drought region, which extended as far north as southeastern Colorado and the southern half of Kansas. In northern Texas, Amarillo’s tally of 100°F readings reached 30 days on July 26; the former annual record of 26 days had been set in 1953. Elsewhere in Texas, Tyler recorded 29 consecutive days (and counting) of 100-degree heat from June 28 – July 26, demolishing its record of 20 days in a row set from July 15 – August 3, 1998. From 1995-2010, the coverage of Texas rangeland and pastures in very poor to poor condition peaked at 81% in August 1998 and 2006; on July 24, 2011, coverage stood at 91%. The rangeland and pasture situation was nearly as bad in Oklahoma (84% very poor to poor) and Kansas (52%). One of the region’s hardest-hit row crops was cotton, with 79% rated very poor to poor in Oklahoma and 59% in Texas. Spotty showers dotted western and southern Texas, as well as the central and southern High Plains, but in many cases temporary drought relief was more than offset by the relentless heat. One exception was extreme southeastern Texas, where heavy rain took a bite out of the extreme to exceptional drought.