Drought conditions cover 80 percent of the U.S.

(CBS News) JONESTOWN, Texas - We haven't seen a drought like this in more than 55 years. Across the middle of the country, the sun is beating down on dying crops and shrinking lakes.

On Monday, the federal government said that more than half the continental United States is now experieincing moderate to exception drought. That is more of America drying out than at any time since 1956.

Times are hard on Easy Street -- or at least at the Easy Street marina on Lake Travis. The falling water level has forced owner Steve Mazzuca to temporarily move his marina out to deeper water three times in six years.

"There's only so much you can take as a small business person when this keeps happening over and over and over again," he said.

U.S. drought grows to cover widest area since 1956

Lake Travis is not just for recreation. It's part of a network of reservoirs that supplies water to 1 million people in central Texas. Now it's more than half-empty, nearly 30 feet below normal July levels. For the marina owner, it means huge financial consequences and much more.

"Everything you can imagine," he said. "Loss of customers, loss of confidence in the management of the water affects not just us but it affects property owners. These are small businesses."

This summer, 80 percent of the U.S. is abnormally dry. Grazing pastures are barren and brown across the nation's midsection. The National Weather Service estimates nearly a third of the Midwest's corn crop is in poor condition because of drought.

Today Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn asked for federal disaster relief for 33 drought-stricken counties.

"We've never see a drought like this," he said. "You can see first-hand how depleted, how serious this matter is, this drought."

(Meteorologist David Bernard of WFOR in Miami explained what the drought meant for the United States and what lay in store for the future. Watch the video below:)

The prolonged drought may be a result of back-to-back occurrences of the weather phenomenon called La Nina. La Nina happens when an area of the Pacific Ocean is cooler than normal. It redirects the jet stream farther north over the United States, causing major storms to bypass the southern part of the country.

Economic losses are closing in on $2 million. Boat launches are shut down, and Jonestown Mayor Deane Armstrong said the location of the city's main park is no longer so choice. It used to be right on the water, but times have changed.

"There's no water, period. Nothing," he said.

Three years ago, the water level was just 12 steps down a steep lakeside stairway. Today, to get to the marina, you have to descend 80 steps.


  • Anna Werner

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