World

The hottest state—ever

Amid wildfires and "exceptional" drought conditions, Texas is praying for rain
Alex Ballingall
BASTROP, TX - SEPTEMBER 6: Bastrop residents line the edge of Highway 21and watch a large wildfire flare up in Bastrop State Park September 6, 2011 in Bastrop, Texas. Several large wildfires have been devastating Bastrop County for the last two days. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
The hottest state—ever
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Not since the infamous dust bowl days of the 1930s has a U.S. state been so hot and dry. More than 80 per cent of Texas is experiencing “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest category on the U.S. Drought Monitor Scale. By the end of August, only 18.6 cm of rain had reached the state this year, and the average temperature over the past three months was 30.4° C, the hottest ever for a U.S. state.

The drought has fuelled scores of wildfires, razing 3.7 million acres of land. In the particularly hard-hit county of Bastrop, more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed and two people killed, according to San Antonio’s KSAT news. Much of the state’s ranchland has also withered and died, forcing sheep and cattle herders to cull or sell off thousands of their animals. Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension Service has concluded that the drought has cost US$5.2 million in lost crops and livestock. Says Mayor John Jacobs of the town of Robert Lee, whose reservoirs are down to 0.5 per cent of their capacity: “We’re just hanging on, praying for rain.”