JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – While some places in Missouri are dealing with too much rain, others haven’t seen enough. Gov. Mike Parson declared a drought alert for 53 counties and then announced a state of emergency for flooding in the St. Louis area.
If you live near St. Louis, you know in the past two weeks there’s been plenty of rain, but if you live in Springfield or Joplin, it’s dry. Parts of the state saw another week of temperatures above 100 and a lack of rain.
“Usually, we are dealing with drought or with flooding or with nothing at all,” Mark Fuchs with the National Weather Service St. Louis office said Thursday. “We’re kind of dealing with that all at the same time now which is unusual.”
Fuchs along with a dozen other state and federal agencies met in Jefferson City Thursday for the first meeting of Missouri’s Drought Assessment Committee. The committee comes after the governor signed an executive late last month declaring 53 states in a drought alert to discuss the state’s response.
“If we don’t get rain, we’re not going to have fall pasture and the drought side of it, that continues on to the winter months for us,” said Parson, who is a farmer himself. “A lot of my neighbors are feeding hay right now.”
Members of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Department of Conservation, Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, along with the National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Army Corps of Engineers discussed the resources available to Missouri farmers and ranchers.
“Producers who are in need of water can come and pump water, can pump water from 40 conservation areas across the state and over 20 state park locations,” said Jake Buxton, legislative liaison for Missouri’s conservation department.”We’re not aware of any request for water yet but it’s a resource available.”
These dry conditions are affecting Missouri’s number one industry: agriculture. The state is home to 95,000 farms and is third in the nation for beef cows. In some areas, the committee stressed there is little to no grass.
“None of us can control Mother Nature,” Parson said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s about how we pick up the pieces after. For us, in Missouri, it’s not the first time we’ve had to go through this, and it won’t be the last.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor updated its weekly map Thursday showing more than 20 counties in southwest Missouri in an extreme drought. During the meeting, the committee saw two different pictures, taken one year apart on a farm in southern Missouri. The photo from July 2021 shows cows standing in a pond. One year later, that pond is completely dry.
Over in the eastern part of the state, businesses, homes, and communities near St. Louis are still cleaning up from a historic flood. Parson requested President Biden to issue a disaster declaration Thursday to give federal assistance to St. Louis, St. Charles, and Montgomery counties.
According to Parson, he requested individual assistance for St. Louis, St. Charles, and Montgomery counties which will allow residents from those areas to search for federal assistance in regard to vehicles being damaged in the flood, temporary housing, and replacement of damaged belongings, etc.
Parson said if the request is approved then local governments and nonprofit agencies can seek federal assistance to be reimbursed for the recovery cost such as repair, and replacement costs for damaged roads, and other public infrastructure. Fuchs, a senior service hydrologist at the National Weather Service in St. Louis said he doesn’t see any relief within the coming days’ areas in a drought.
“The concept of summertime rainfall benefiting some and not all, feast or famine, that is not unusual,” said Fuchs. “We kind of see facets of that every summer. Is there an end to the droughtiness? We don’t really see it.”
Parson said his office is in contact daily with the federal government regarding the drought and the flood. One of his concerns is how much this is going to affect the cost of food down the road.
Director of the DNR Dru Buntin said the state plans to provide daily updates on drought maps and access to water for farmers on the department’s website.
The drought alert is part of the state’s drought plan, which allows the governor to direct state agencies to work together to provide as many resources as possible. It allows temporary suspension of appropriations and other administrative rules to mitigate the effects of the drought.
Counties under the drought alert are as follows: Barry, Barton, Boone, Butler, Camden, Carter, Cedar, Christian, Cole, Cooper, Crawford, Dade, Dallas, Dent, Douglas, Gasconade, Greene, Hickory, Howard, Howell, Iron, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Laclede, Lafayette, Lawrence, Maries, McDonald, Miller, Mississippi, Moniteau, New Madrid, Newton, Oregon, Ozark, Pemiscot, Pettis, Phelps, Polk, Pulaski, Reynolds, Ripley, Saline, Scott, Shannon, Stoddard, Stone, Taney, Texas, Wayne, Webster, and Wright.