Northern Alabama has become acre after acre of shriveled cornstalks, cracked red dirt for miles and days of unrelenting white heat. The region's most severe drought in over a century has farmers here averting their gaze from a future that looks as bleak as their fields.
The drought is worst here, but it is wilting much of the Southeast, causing watering restrictions and curtailed crops in Georgia, premature cattle sales in Mississippi and Tennessee, and rivers so low that power companies in the region are scrambling and barges are unable to navigate. Fourth of July fireworks are out of the question in many tinderbox areas. Hay to feed livestock is in increasingly short supply, watermelons are coming in small and some places have not had good rain since the start of the year.