Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

Arkansas River, Wichita


When I woke up to the sound of rain last Tuesday, I felt as if I had awakened in another country. It was a great day – the air was chilly, and rain fell slowly and steadily all morning long.

With a high of only 66 degrees, it sure didn’t feel like an ordinary August day in Kansas – especially not this year with the life-draining temperatures and a lack of precipitation.

A rainy day has become a novelty. When moisture falls, we run outside to get wet. The drought makes us crave rain, dream about rain, try to mentally pull moisture from a dry cloud.

Intense, unceasing heat this summer has stolen much of the water we did have on the surface of Kansas. Many farm ponds look like buffalo wallows. Creek bottoms are all rock and no water. Rivers have gone silent.

We’ve looked for clouds on the outskirts of sky. We want to believe the rumors of rain. We’ve sent prayers up to the heavens, have left our car windows rolled down, we’ve hosted the county fair – but these rain dances of ours have provided little moisture.

On August 14, the National Weather Service reported that much of Kansas is experiencing an “exceptional” drought situation, the most extreme type of drought. The NWS indicated that 63.3 percent of Kansas is in the exceptional category, up from 38.6 percent the previous week.

I checked in with my friend Mark Bogner, a meteorologist with KSN-TV in Wichita. He said, “This is easily the worst drought that Kansas has seen since the 1950s, and it is our second year of the drought, so it is having a cumulative effect on plant life and water supplies.” He added that drought conditions have been going on for longer than two years in parts of western Kansas.

“It will take years to reverse some of the damage,” he said.

I asked Bogner how it felt as a TV meteorologist, to have nothing new or hopeful to report to his viewers. “It may sound funny,” he said, “but every season in Kansas reaches that time where you run out of ways to say it.”

“But the last two summers have been the most challenging of all,” he said. “Not only is there nothing new to report in the weather for weeks on end, but it is always news that nobody wants to hear, including the weatherman himself. People often forget that we, too, have lawns, gardens, farming interests, etc.”

On one of those brain-curling days in July when the temperature hit 106, Dave and I were stopped for road construction on K-150 in Marion County. I felt sorry for the flagman standing on the hot pavement. He positioned himself so his face was in the shadow of his stop sign, but the rest of his body took a beating from the sun.

Usually during these vicious summers, I hear tales of people attempting to bake cookies in their closed-up cars or trying to fry eggs on the sidewalk. I think we’re beyond that this year. We don’t need to prove to ourselves or anyone that the summer has been unbearable.

When the Mars rover, Curiosity, sent images from the surface of the red planet, what I focused on was the dust. It probably wasn’t a fair thought, but when I saw the dusty landscape, it occurred to me that our state this summer might be a good training environment for living on Mars, should we ever have to take up residence there.

I’m a fan of summer, but even I am ready to pack up this season and move on. We’re all tired of hot and dusty. We want soft thunder, juicy skies, and mud. We want rain falling softly, dripping all day long, all week long. We want puddles.

We want our gardens and fields to be watered by Mother Nature. We want farm ponds to fill. We want our rivers to flow.

The drought is just another chapter in the history of our lives and in the history of Kansas. It’s not a good story right now, but it will pass. Rain will come.

Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh


  1. “I’m a fan of summer, but even I am ready to pack up this season and move on.”
    OUT OF CHERYL’S WORD– SHE IS READY FOR SUMMER TO MOVE ON— another one for the history books!!! 🙂 Never thought I would hear that from Cheryl!!! 🙂 Good story Cheryl– we have had more rain than you folks have in Kansas– didn’t realize how dry you really were–

  2. Yikes! The image above is a sad commentary about the drought conditions there. I’ve heard stories about farm ponds and wells drying up, but it’s beyond comprehension to view what you’ve illustrated. Thanks.

  3. Yesterday we drove into Emporia. Larry drove on the way home. I am the one that usually drives, so hadn’t fully noticed the ponds and lagoons we go by on 99 between Olpe and Madison. I was amazed. For the 9 years we’ve lived here in Madison, those water holes have always been full. Yesterday they looked like mud holes. It rather startled me. We really are in a dreadful drought. Oh, I never doubted it, but to see that really surprised me.

  4. Great post. Like you, I am ready for Autumn. I have to wonder, though, if I’m becoming a bit of a wimp in my middle age years. I remember growing up in New Orleans, in a house without air conditioning. In summer the temperature was often 100+, and I spent most every day outside.

    Nowadays, it gets above 90, and I’m ready for some nice air conditioning.

  5. Great commentary Cheryl! The reality of it makes a few sprinkles like yesterday morning and this morning hopeful that this chapter in history has ended and we can go back to our rivers, ponds, green trees (if they haven’t all died) and green grass.
    “We want rain falling softly, dripping all day long, all week long. We want puddles.” Yes we do!

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