The U.S. had its hottest year on record last year. That heat, combined with the relatively dry winter that came before, has brought a historic drought.
From forest fires and low crop yields, to infrastructure and recreation, the drought has been costly, with early estimates putting the cost at between $50 billion and $80 billion.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared a disaster area in more than 1,000 counties, and now the drought is hitting America’s most important waterway — the Mississippi River. Water levels are so low that the Army Corps of Engineers is taking emergency action to keep the river navigable.
“This is critically important to the economy of the Midwest and of the nation,” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters a few weeks ago.
But beyond the dusty plains and dry rivers, the ripple effects of the drought are now being felt throughout the U.S.