Half of Arkansas Under Exceptional Drought

August 10, 2012

The various weather services which serve the United States all say that El Niño is coming within the next two months. For some people along the West Coast, that’s bad news, but for much of the South and Midwest, the increased chances of rain, and the cold, wet winter can’t get here soon enough.

Arkansas is a prime example of a state in bad need of some precipitation. How bad? Well, according to a new map released yesterday, over 53% of the state is in an “exceptional” drought – the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most severe classification. That’s scary, but what’s even scarier is that a week ago, only 44% of the state was in that most severe classification, though there’s still a significant amount of the state (currently 27%) is only one level “better” – at “extreme drought” status, while the rest of the state is in “severe” drought, except for a small part – 4% – that’s merely in “moderate” drought.

Arkansas isn’t alone, of course. Wildfires in Oklahoma have been out of control this summer, due to the significant lack of rain, and much of Texas is in the “extreme” and “exceptional” categories as well.

What does this have to do with insurance? A lot, actually. Look for an increased number of crop insurance claims, fire insurance claims, and even health insurance claims (since many people believe limiting their personal water intake is necessary, even though most cities only require a strict cut-back on irrigation). Last year, drought conditions began to affect the cattle industry as well, causing many Texas ranchers to sell off, or kill, significant portions of their stock in order to feed and water the remaining animals.

No one wishes hurricanes on anyone – we’ve seen the devastation they can do – but for the parched plains, Atlantic Hurricanes during the summer and El Niño during the fall are necessary balms, sending outer rain bands and wet weather to ground – and people – who badly need it.