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Disastrous Weather — Why?

Death-dealing tornados, rampaging floods, searing droughts — this is today's worldwide "weather report."
Why must it be this way? What does the future hold?


"THE devastation is terrible! Ohio looks like it's been bombed" exclaimed Governor James A. Rhodes, surveying the tornado-torn northwestern section of Ohio. Such was the "Palm Sunday Disaster."

Viewing the twisted mass of wreckage around the Toledo area, Governor Rhodes termed the ruin "fantastic . . . unbelievable. There is nothing you can compare it with."

But his area wasn't alone.

Catastrophic storms hammered the six-state Midwestern region of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The rumbling juggernaut of tornados — at least 37 in number — left in their wake a death toll of 242 and property damage totaling in the multi-millions.

Not since 1925 has such a devastating tornado onslaught pummeled the United States. For Indiana alone, it was the greatest disaster in the state's history. For towns and crossroads communities such as Russiaville, Indiana, and Pittsfield Center, Ohio, destruction was nearly total! The only thing left standing in Pittsfield Center is an old Civil War monument.


Floods, Too

As if tornados were not enough, America's agricultural and industrial heartland has had to brace itself for yet another natural disaster — flooding. The worst floods on record in the upper Mississippi River region have poured their ice-jammed waters into dozens of communities in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois. Evacuees have numbered 60,000 so far in what has been claimed the wettest Easter weekend in U.S. history.

The bad weather picture is by no means limited to floods and tornados — and neither is it confined to the North American continent.


All around the World

"Britain is facing its most serious water shortage of the century," reports the London Sunday Times in its April 4, 1965, edition. "The blame is put on the last three years which have been the driest since 1854. . . . Worst-hit areas are those in the Midlands, round the London basin and in the South-East." Natural underground reservoirs in these areas are lower than has ever been known. The drought is especially severe in South Essex, where thousands of householders and industrial concerns, including the Ford Company's huge Dagenham plant, face drastic water-rationing in an attempt to conserve the rapidly depleting supply.

British Government scientists are very concerned about the drought. One said, "We would need phenomenal rainfall, and we are not going to get it." He concluded by saying, "What everyone is trying hard not to think about is the possibility that next winter could be just as dry as the last."


Australia Parched with Drought

Halfway around the world, Australia, one of Great Britain's thief food suppliers, is facing a drought crisis of national proportions. "Hundreds of thousands of square miles in New South Wales, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia are parched," reports The Australian (March 3, 1965). Other sources reveal that cattle and sheep are dying by the thousands. One northern Australian stockyard estimated that 15 percent of its cattle have choked to death in huge dust squalls en route to market. Elsewhere, sheep are being dumped on the market for as little as 1s, 2d (14 cents) a head. Dust has lowered the quality of the wool.

The once-rich Alice Springs area of the Northern Territory is now in its eighth year without a good rain. Cattlemen there say that only general rains over something like 200,000 square miles of central and southern areas of the Territory can prevent more massive cattle losses. But no rain appears in sight. Weather Bureau spokesmen say there is an almost total lack of moisture in the upper atmosphere.

Despite the prolonged dry spell in the northern and western sections of Australia, agricultural experts are most concerned about a newer drought which has afflicted a rich dairy and beef-producing area of the adjoining states of New South Wales and Queensland.

These two key states produce more than half the total value of Australia's agricultural output. Government experts warn that lack of water will make a severe impact on the nation's economy unless heavy rains fall in the next two or three months.


"Stench of Dead Cattle"

Prospects for rain, however, are bleak. A Reuters dispatch from Sydney dated April 14 revealed that in some towns in Central Queensland the rain gauges are clogged with dust. No rain has fallen there for two years. "Stock losses, already heavy, may soar to hundreds of thousands of animals unless there is rain."

In neighboring New South Wales, the picture is worsening with each passing day. A reporter for the Sydney Sun-Herald wrote on March 7:

"The stench of dead cattle fills the air from Young to the Queensland border this week as a huge area of New South Wales parches to a record drought. A vast expanse of the main milk and beef-producing belt is already in the most severe 'dry' in memory. Farmers who are blasting holes in dry creek beds to reach water in an effort to save dying herds say if no rain falls by winter the drought will become a 'national disaster.'

"About the only sleek and well-fed living creatures I saw were the crows feeding off the stinking flesh of dead animals. Dairy farmers and grazers in the Hunter Valley and around Dungong and Gloucester — an area which never before in farming history has gone more than nine months without rain — have lost scores of cattle, and more are thirsting to death every day.

"The country is . . . as dusty as the long-term drought-stricken dustbowl of the far west and northwest, which has been years without rain. It is the smell of death, though, and the sight of crows picking the last scraps of flesh from bleaching bones that brings home most starkly the fact that there is dreadful drought right on Sydney's doorstep."


Southern Africa Also

Other areas of the earth — especially the English-speaking world — are also suffering from weather upsets. South African farmers appealed to the government this March for assistance in facing one of the worst droughts the Republic has had this century. In sections of Northern and Western Transvaal many farmers have been forced to leave their dried-up land and seek employment in the towns. Water has been scarce for the past six years in the Northern provinces. A five-year drought in sections of Cape Province has forced some sheep raisers to cut their flocks by 50 percent. This is beginning to affect South Africa's economy, wool being one of her largest exports.

To the north of the Republic, "the Rhodesian government is facing a 'full-scale disaster' in South West Matabeleland where for the second year in succession drought is destroying cattle and crops. Eighty thousand people are threatened with starvation" (Sunday Telegraph, London, March 14, 1965).


Brief Rundown All Over

Space will permit only a brief mention of other weather upsets around the globe, such as: — The catastrophic cyclone and gigantic tidal wave which struck Ceylon and southeastern India last December, leaving an estimated 1800 dead. It was called the greatest tragedy ever to hit Ceylon. — One of the worst floods in India's history last August which left 500,000 homeless in the state of Bihar and destroyed 80 percent of the area's vital rice crop. — Ominous new warnings filtering out now from behind the Bamboo Curtain that China is facing its worst crop failure since disastrous 1961. Radio broadcasts from all parts of China's grain belt tell of "battles, great obstacles and difficulties" with weather and insects.

We mustn't forget other recent catastrophes in the United States and Canada either: — The disastrous "Christmas week floods" in Oregon and northern California. The Eel River flood was so bad it was said it could happen only "once in a thousand years." — The bone-chilling cold snaps and blizzards which paralyzed sections of the eastern and Midwestern U.S.; — State-wide summer droughts along the eastern seaboard (New York's worst in 138 years); — The 1964 hurricane season (Cleo, Dota and Hilda) which was the worst in 15 years. — The intensifying water shortage in the Great Lakes basin. Lakes Huron and Michigan are at all-time lows and Lake Ontario will soon be there.