Hot and dry temperatures plagued the Southeast for the sixth straight day Friday, pushing pasture and hay reserves for cattle to the critical stage, while slow-moving thunderstorms were blamed for a building collapse in Missouri that killed two people.
The thunderstorms stretched from the Plains to the Ohio Valley, prompting forecasters to warn of flash flooding in Kansas and strong winds and hail in Ohio.
The drought in the Southeast, with temperatures hovering near 100 degrees again Friday, has pushed farmers to the brink.
'A Disaster' for Crops
"It's a disaster," said Bubba Trotman, head of the Alabama Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. "The wheat crop is cut at least 80% to 90%."
In Georgia, one of the major poultry producing states in the nation, chicken farmers reported 398,000 broilers and 18,500 brood hens had died in the last three days, 5% of normal production.
Most experts said that farmers, and not consumers, will probably have to bear the brunt of the drought because the rest of the nation's farmers generally are experiencing favorable weather.
Elsewhere in the nation Friday, thunderstorms rumbled over the north-central states, spinning off a tornado in Wisconsin. A cold front across the northern Plains helped trigger heavy showers and thunderstorms across eastern South Dakota, where marble-size hail, heavy rain and gusty wind raked Columbia.
Other thunderstorms developed rapidly across the Southeast and the Tennessee Valley, and storms pounded parts of St. Louis, producing strong wind and heavy rain.
In Sedalia, Mo., two men were killed and two others were injured in the collapse of a two-story brick building that authorities believe was caused by 12 hours of heavy rain. Two others were treated at a nearby hospital and released.
Behind the front, Alamosa, Colo., had a record low temperature of 37 degrees, breaking the old mark of 42 degrees set in 1974. Cool temperatures also swept northern New England, dipping to 48 degrees in Worcester, Mass., to break the record of 49 degrees set in 1957.
By contrast, the heat wave in the South was expected to continue for the next few days. The temperature in Columbia, S.C., and Augusta, Ga., reached the century mark for the fifth day in a row Friday, with a reading of 102 in both cities.