Crops, neighborly relations suffer in Southeastern U.S. drought

A severe drought is gripping most of the Southeastern U.S., threatening crops, inspiring prayer, and turning neighbors against each other. “It’s one of the worst droughts in living memory in the Southeast at this point,” said Doug LeComte, a drought specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “This happens only about every 50 years or so.” With a high-pressure system keeping rain away, some of the hardest-hit states — including Alabama and Georgia — are imposing restrictions on outdoor water use and often fining offenders. In one Georgia county, officials report about six calls a day from residents turning in their neighbors. Georgia’s governor decreed a “day of prayer for agriculture” last week, and other states are turning to secular means: South Carolina and North Carolina are locked in a legal battle over use of Catawba River water. And with cotton, corn, and peanut crops withering, “Farmers are reporting nothing but dust,” says LeComte. “It’s dire straits.”