Tuesday, July 12, 2011

At My Wits End

Taking my boss to the optometrists today turned into a trip and a half. I started to feel like I was going vomit and wanted to go and sit in the vehicle. He thought I was going to leave him there. So we started to play a game of "who is on third" while my stomach churned over like a roller coaster. In the end I stayed, grabbed a cloth and covered my mouth so that no-one could see that I was gagging. I abhor being this ill.

During the one sided conversation he told me that he is moving to Belize with his youngest son, but didn't say when that would materialize. I can do no other than agree. People in their 80's should be able to spend time with their family before they die. That should be one of the largest blessings the golden years bring. To have family who love you enough to want you with them.

It started raining while I waited for him, a nice slow rain that we need so much. The wildfires have left scorched and barren mountainsides that will easily start to move if hit with heavy monsoon type rains.

We still need more rain, though an hour of drizzle each day will not be unappreciated. There is dry, but then there is a total different type of dry. This nation has seen record breaking tornadoes, wildfires, flood and drought in a matter of weeks, and damage is beyond heartbreaking.

14 States Suffering Under Drought

COLQUITT, Ga. — The heat and the drought are so bad in this southwest corner of Georgia that hogs can barely eat. Corn, a lucrative crop with a notorious thirst, is burning up in fields. Cotton plants are too weak to punch through soil so dry it might as well be pavement.

Farmers with the money and equipment to irrigate are running wells dry in the unseasonably early and particularly brutal national drought that some say could rival the Dust Bowl days.

“It’s horrible so far,” said Mike Newberry, a Georgia farmer who is trying grow cotton, corn and peanuts on a thousand acres. “There is no description for what we’ve been through since we started planting corn in March.”

The pain has spread across 14 states, from Florida, where severe water restrictions are in place, to Arizona, where ranchers could be forced to sell off entire herds of cattle because they simply cannot feed them.

In Texas, where the drought is the worst, virtually no part of the state has been untouched. City dwellers and ranchers have been tormented by excessive heat and high winds. In the Southwest, wildfires are chewing through millions of acres.

Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture designated all 254 counties in Texas natural disaster areas, qualifying them for varying levels of federal relief. More than 30 percent of the state’s wheat fields might be lost, adding pressure to a crop in short supply globally.

Even if weather patterns shift and relief-giving rain comes, losses will surely head past $3 billion in Texas alone, state agricultural officials said.

Most troubling is that the drought, which could go down as one of the nation’s worst, has come on extra hot and extra early. It has its roots in 2010 and continued through the winter. The five months from this February to June, for example, were so dry that they shattered a Texas record set in 1917, said Don Conlee, the acting state climatologist.

Oklahoma has had only 28 percent of its normal summer rainfall, and the heat has blasted past 90 degrees for a month.

“We’ve had a two- or three-week start on what is likely to be a disastrous summer,” said Kevin Kloesel, director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

The question, of course, becomes why. In a spring and summer in which weather news has been dominated by epic floods and tornadoes, it is hard to imagine that more than a quarter of the country is facing an equally daunting but very different kind of natural disaster.

From a meteorological standpoint, the answer is fairly simple. “A strong La Niña shut off the southern pipeline of moisture,” said David Miskus, who monitors drought for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The weather pattern called La Niña is an abnormal cooling of Pacific waters. It usually follows El Niño, which is an abnormal warming of those same waters.

Although a new forecast from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center suggests that this dangerous weather pattern could revive in the fall, many in the parched regions find themselves in the unlikely position of hoping for a season of heavy tropical storms in the Southeast and drenching monsoons in the Southwest.

Climatologists say the great drought of 2011 is starting to look a lot like the one that hit the nation in the early to mid-1950s. That, too, dried a broad part of the southern tier of states into leather and remains a record breaker.

But this time, things are different in the drought belt. With states and towns short on cash and unemployment still high, the stress on the land and the people who rely on it for a living is being amplified by political and economic forces, state and local officials say. As a result, this drought is likely to have the cultural impact of the great 1930s drought, which hammered an already weakened nation.

“In the ’30s, you had the Depression and everything that happened with that, and drought on top,” said Donald A. Wilhite, director of the school of natural resources at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and former director of the National Drought Mitigation Center. “The combination of those two things was devastating.”

Although today’s economy is not as bad, many Americans ground down by prolonged economic insecurity have little wiggle room to handle the effects of a prolonged drought. Government agencies are in the same boat.

“Because we overspent, the Legislature overspent, we’ve been cut back and then the drought comes along and we don’t have the resources and federal government doesn’t, and so we just tighten our belt and go on,” said Donald Butler, the director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture.

The drought is having some odd effects, economically and otherwise.

“One of the biggest impacts of the drought is going to be the shrinking of the cattle herd in the United States,” said Bruce A. Babcock, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University in Ames. And that will have a paradoxical but profound impact on the price of a steak.

Ranchers whose grass was killed by drought cannot afford to sustain cattle with hay or other feed, which is also climbing in price. Their response will most likely be to send animals to slaughter early. That glut of beef would lower prices temporarily.

But America’s cattle supply will ultimately be lower at a time when the global supply is already low, potentially resulting in much higher prices in the future.

There are other problems. Fishing tournaments have been canceled in Florida and Mississippi, just two of the states where low water levels have kept recreational users from lakes and rivers. In Texas, some cities are experiencing blackouts because airborne deposits of salt and chemicals are building up on power lines, triggering surges that shut down the system. In times of normal weather, rain usually washes away the environmental buildup. Instead, power company crews in cities like Houston are being dispatched to spray electrical lines.

In this corner of Georgia, where temperatures have been over 100 and rainfall has been off by more than half, fish and wildlife officials are worried over the health of the shinyrayed pocketbook and the oval pigtoe mussels, both freshwater species on the endangered species list.

The mussels live in Spring Creek, which is dangerously low and borders Terry Pickle’s 2,000-acre farm here. He pulls his irrigation from wells that tie into the water system of which Spring Creek is a part.

Whether nature or agriculture is to blame remains a debate in a state that for 20 years has been embroiled in a water war with Alabama and Florida. Meanwhile, Colquitt has allowed the state to drill a special well to pump water back into the creek to save the mussels from extinction.

Most farmers here are much more worried about the crops than the mussels. With cotton and corn prices high, they had high hopes for the season. But many have had to replant fields several times to get even one crop to survive. Others, like Mr. Pickle, have relied on irrigation so expensive that it threatens to eat into any profits.

The water is free, but the system used to get it from the ground runs on diesel fuel. His bill for May and June was an unheard of $88,442.

Thousands of small stories like that will all contribute to the ultimate financial impact of the drought, which will not be known until it is over. And no one knows when that will be.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency has already provided over $75 million in assistance to ranchers nationwide, with most of it going to Florida, New Mexico and Texas. An additional $62 million in crop insurance indemnities have already been provided to help other producers.

Economists say that adding up the effects of drought is far more complicated than, say, those of a hurricane or tornado, which destroy structures that have set values. With drought, a shattered wheat or corn crop is a loss to one farmer, and it has a specific price tag. But all those individual losses punch a hole in the food supply and drive prices up. That is good news for a farmer who manages to get a crop in. The final net costs down the line are thus dispersed, and mostly passed along.

That means grocery shoppers will feel the effects of the drought at the dinner table, where the cost of staples like meat and bread will most likely rise, said Michael J. Roberts, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. “The biggest losers are consumers,” he said.

I am at my wits end. Still not a word about the electricity. July is going by far too fast and still I sit wondering how to get a home and barn finished on our land. My cousin e-mailed this morning and said, "It makes you wonder what else life can throw at you !!.It's a real shame about your Mum not being able to come over, that must hurt. I know you can't tell her about the house, perhaps life might throw you a bit of luck and you will get your house sometime. I really hope so."

I don't need luck. I need honesty, honor-ability, justice. I need someone to show the moral fortitude to make a convicted felon return what he stole. I need my mothers building fund returned so that we can buy a home and go on with our lives. It's really that simple.

The price of this crime has been horrendous. To lose your mother, your career, your home in one fell swoop really isn't funny.. because the stress then takes your health.

Someone related to Robert & Sylve Huckins must have some means to reach them, if it be Michael Huckins, Dr.Kenneth Ogilvie
( Diana Huckins? Dominic Huckins? Malcolm Huckins? ) or Patricia Ogilvie-Huckins. I, like those victims who came before me, have been dragged through a living hell and I simply beg for your mercy. I can't obtain a home until Robert Huckins returns the money he stole from us that was to buy a home. Had he given the money back when he promised the white collar crime investigators I wouldn't be making this plea today. Had he never stolen any money I wouldn't be making this plea today. But he pushes the abuse and torment to an extent where no alternatives are offered. I am homeless and I want to see my mum and return to my career, so I won't stop asking if I have to ask every single day until I die. Robert Huckins gave no-one an alternative, so I plead with sincerity for your mercy.

Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid it because it's uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing -- resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and other beings.~ Joanna Macy