Drought forces Oklahoma agriculture producers to ponder hard choices
EL RENO — It sounded like toothpicks being snapped. One after another.
As Fred Reuter talked about the effects of drought on his farm west of El Reno, he kept breaking twigs off a dead weed that stood about hip high.
Videoview all videos
Aug 17NewsOK talks with Fred Reuter, an El Reno cattle...
Photoview all photos
He did so without really thinking about it at first.
The 60-year-old producer lives in Canadian County, which the U.S. Drought Monitor lists among Oklahoma counties experiencing exceptional drought, the worst of category.
Finding dead vegetation, unfortunately, isn't much of a chore in many areas of Oklahoma.
However, Fred was standing in the bottom of an 18-foot-deep pond. Instead of water, it's filled with weeds and a few grasshoppers.
“Think about this, when this pond went dry, these weeds weren't here,” he said, and then snapped another twig. “So, this weed's had enough time to grow about 3 feet tall, die and dry. That's how long it's been dry. We have three ponds on this place and we haven't been able to run cattle on it for two years with no water. All we have in these three is a 10-foot puddle in part of one of them.”
His story is shared by so many. Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor report showed all of Oklahoma in a severe to exceptional drought. The report also showed 46 percent of the contiguous U.S. falls within the severe to exceptional categories.
Fred's the third of four generations to have been born and raised in central Oklahoma. It's one thing for him to say he's seeing things of frightful proportions for the first time. But it really scares him when his father, Wayne Reuter, makes statements along those lines.
“There's a creek just over here that's run year-round ever since I can remember,” the 85-year-old said. “It's dry, hasn't run in over a year now.”
More than numbers
The Oklahoma Mesonet station for El Reno is located at Fort Reno, a little less than 10 miles from Fred's farm. From April 1 to Thursday, that site had received 8.2 inches of rain. That is 8 inches below normal.
News Photo Galleriesview all
- 15646Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 9491Finding Addyson – One family's struggle in the Moore tornado
- 8139Oklahoma tornadoes: Woman meets the military officer who shared the clothes off his back
- 7458Oklahoma tornadoes: Plaza Towers Elementary School teacher shoved students into bathroom as wall collapsed
- 7219Oklahoma tornadoes: Cost, custom keep basements scarce
- 6377Story behind the photo: Family members describe desperate search for one another after EF5 twister
- 6374Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill to join Blake Shelton at "Healing in the Heartland" Oklahoma tornado benefit