By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
Blustery conditions and a pre–Christmas blizzard brought much needed snow to central and western Nebraska.
But it's too little too late.
Experts say the area would need a long, snowy winter to even make a dent, and there's only a 10 to 20 percent chance of that.
2012 ends as the driest ever recorded in the state, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Drought has been called a slow–motion disaster. But not this one, which stands out for its speed and intensity.
Dr. Michael Hayes, head of the NDMC previously told NTV, "The physical damage some of the other hazards have, like flood or earthquakes – it's different, and it's got a slow evolving nature to it."
A new report confirms what many suspected; The state's top industry was the biggest victim of this disaster. Agriculture was first to feel the impact.
Farmers began cutting dryland corn in July. At that time, NTV talked with Pete Dibbern near Cairo.
He said, "There are some farmers, dryland especially has just suffered severely."
Thanks to irrigation, Nebraska corn growers cashed in, as they took advantage of record prices.
Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner said, "Irrigated corn yields here in central Nebraska are going to be really good which is very pleasant surprise."
Doug Saathoff farms in rural Adams County. In September, he said, "I would never guess yields would have been this good, even with irrigation. We're very thankful, very blessed to have what we have."
Livestock producers battled the worst fire season in a century with 1,400 wildfires in the state, according to the Nebraska Forest Service.
Cattlemen made difficult decisions.
During the Nebraska State Fair, Brock Nichols told NTV, "Drought's caused us to have to wean our calves a lot earlier than usual."
The Platte River ran dry following the wettest five-year period in history.
To see conditions deteriorate so rapidly is unprecedented.
The National Drought Mitigation Center, based at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln says the drought will continue, as they study just how bad it's been.
"From this drought we're going to learn many things we can apply and make us less vulnerable," their head, Dr. Hayes told NTV this fall.
It's not just Nebraska. Of the contiguous 48 states, 60 percent were in severe to extreme drought.
But Nebraska was in the epicenter.
The USDA has paid out $8 billion in drought–related damages, including more than half a billion here in the Cornhusker state.
The NDMC says the rivers could begin to suffer, as water levels fall. Drought can also be a health hazard if wells run dry. The NDMC encourages well owners to check wells now, to make sure they are operating reliably.
Farmers are advised to check with Nebraska Extension to prepare for another drought year, by visiting droughtresources.unl.edu.