A West Texas thunderstorm on July 24 kicked up a dust cloud as the winds passed over ground parched and barren from a drought that began back in 2010. As the dust passed over Interstate 20 just before 8 p.m., drivers lost sight of the road before them and quickly slowed down, setting off a chain of collisions as 17 cars and trucks ran into one another. Two 18-wheelers sandwiched one car, killing its driver and passenger.
Nearly 60 percent of the United States, mostly in the center and west of the country, is currently experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, according to the National Drought Monitor, and the drought is expected to persist into 2013 for many of those already parched states. The effects of these dry times have come in many forms: The costs of agricultural products, including beef and corn, and the food products derived from them have risen. Barges are having difficulty traversing the Mississippi River. Dry soil is causing the foundations of some homes to crack and leak. And dust storms, like the one in Texas, are echoing the 1930s Dust Bowl, the subject of a new documentary by Ken Burns that premieres on PBS this weekend. - Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.