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Record will reflect hot, dry weather of 2012




GOODLAND -- With more than a third of an inch of precipitation in the bucket in December, Goodland's chance of 2012 being the driest year on record have been shattered.

As a result, 1956 -- when 9.19 inches were recorded -- will continue as the driest year on record.

Regardless of the outcome, 2012 will go down as one the driest -- if not the driest -- year on record.

Goodland's had 9.37 inches of moisture so far this year, a far cry from the 19.45 inches that would be considered normal.

That's the case nearly everywhere this year as virtually all of northwest Kansas has struggled through a drought, for most the most serious since 1956.

Hays, for example, has had 14.25 inches of moisture this year, well below the 22.5 inches considered normal.

Hill City has had 10.37 inches, but that's 12.37 inches below normal.

This has been a year of a "flash" drought, meaning conditions started relatively normal and then rapidly deteriorated.

Virtually all of the area currently is in the middle of an exceptional drought, the most serious category offered by the Drought Monitor maintained by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

But it wasn't just a matter of being dry.

In fact, parts of northwest Kansas were sharply hotter in late June than Death Valley National Park.

That meant a number of new records being set.

Norton hit a high of 118 on June 28, the hot spot of the nation, and breaking the old record of 113, set just three days earlier.

Cedar Bluff Reservoir hit 110 on June 26 and 29, tying the old record set on June 15, 2003.

Colby hit 113 on June 28.

Hill City on June 26 hit 115 degrees, attracting national attention at the hot spot of the nation. It was a new record, breaking the previous high of 110 set in 1980.

Elsewhere in northwest Kansas, temperatures reached 110 degrees -- or higher -- frequently, sending people inside to escape the heat.

At least three deaths were blamed on the heat, however.

Despite the dry conditions, farmers marveled at the wheat they cut in what was the earliest harvest on record.

Fall crops, however, were a different story.

Most milo crops were cut and baled for livestock feed, of which there was little. Dryland corn crops were in the same situation.

Crop insurance payments have skyrocketed as claims have been filed.

The outlook, however, continues to call for relatively dry conditions with warmer temperatures.