Year of Misfortune: Top 12 Billion-Dollar U.S. Disasters

By Tom Randall - 2011-12-21T20:11:59Z

Photograph by Patric Dove/San Angelo Standard-Times

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#2 Drought, Heat Waves & Wildfires

The driest 12 months on record in Texas led cattlemen to slaughter herds early or ship them by train to greener pastures. Drought left crops twisting in the wind from the lower Great Plains to New Mexico. The U.S. government estimates that 33 percent of the nation's cotton crop will be lost this year -- topping the 1933 record. Texas Governor Rick Perry, Republican Presidential candidate and son of a cotton farmer, asked supporters to pray for rain.

The drought in the southern plains and southwest has led to direct losses of crops, timber and livestock worth almost $10 billion. Weather extremes have caused the U.S. Department of Agriculture to misestimate its two most recent annual crop forecasts by the most in a quarter century. Reservoirs like this one near Robert Lee, Texas, are drying up. Long-term trends are sobering. The Lower Colorado River Authority reports that "The weather outlook for our basin over the next six months still doesn't offer much hope for significant rain."

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