Drought eases but small community still suffers the aftermath

(CBS News) PLAINVIEW, Texas - The great drought is easing -- in part because of two major snowstorms that hit the heartland this month.

The government reported today 54 percent of the nation is in drought -- that's down from more than 65 percent in September.

In the great plains of Texas it is too little, too late.

There are 22,000 people in Plainview, Texas. Two thousand lost their jobs when the beef processing plant closed last month. Hilario Mendoza worked there for 10 years.

Hilario Mendoza lost his job when the Cargill beef processing plant closed last month.

Here's how he explains how he was told the plant was closing.

''Well, they said because of the herd mainly and the drought. Plainview really hasn't had no rain in the past 3 or 4 years,'' said Mendoza.

The drought forced many cattle ranchers to slaughter livestock they couldn't afford to feed. Now there's not enough cattle available to keep the beef processing plant running. Mendoza worries about his future.

''I'm thinking about the bills, my wife. What's it gonna do to the community? It can't be good for it. You know, cause it's only gonna bring Plainview down.''

Stan Lancaster says it's already affecting his business.

''We're not getting any orders,'' he said.

Stan Lancaster says his printing business has been impacted by the drought.

Lancaster owns a Plainview printing shop that's been in business for over 100 years. Half their printing orders came from the Cargill plant.

''Took a while for it to sink in, and you're just going, wow, look how much business they do with us!''

One local banker estimated the loss to the Plainview economy at as much as $80 million a year.

''I can't see myself moving away, but, people gotta do what they gotta do. They gotta go where work is at. Because there's not gonna be nothing here to survive on,'' said Mendoza

Cargill could reopen the plant if the cattle herd rebounds but that will likely take years -- far too long for people here to stay -- and wait.