COLUMBIA, S.C. — About 300 farmers, children and bystanders cheered and waved U.S. flags Tuesday as a train carrying hundreds of tons of Indiana hay rolled into town to the tune of "Happy Days Are Here Again."
The train, dubbed the "Hoosier Hay Express" when it left Indiana with 1,800 tons of hay, was the biggest single gift so far in a nationwide drought relief effort for the Southeast, where farmers are running out of feed.
As a gesture of thanks to the Indiana farmers and volunteers who worked for three days to send the trainload of hay, Gov. Richard W. Riley proclaimed Tuesday "Hoosier Day" in South Carolina.
'God Bless This Country'
"I want to say for all of the people of South Carolina, God bless the good folks of Indiana who have made this hay train a reality, and God bless this country and its generous, caring people," Riley said.
"It means everything. It's a blessing to us," said farmer Edward Wilson, 65, of Blythewood, adding that he hopes South Carolina farmers could someday repay the Indiana farmers.
"This cutting I should've gotten 800 to 900 bales cut, but I only got 65 bales," Wilson said of his hay crop. He said he normally feeds his 60 cattle about 1,500 bales a year.
The 77-boxcar, mile-long train dropped off 35 cars at three other South Carolina cities before arriving in Columbia.
At about the same time Tuesday, a 97-car train from Illinois pulled into Atlanta with 1,500 tons of hay to be sold at discount to Georgia farmers. Cattlemen in Alabama began picking up 50 tons of hay flown in from Colorado on two Air Force cargo planes.
Californians Load Hay
In Bakersfield, a similar effort by California ranchers got under way Tuesday with the loading of several hundred tons of hay for farmers in the Southeast.
No relief was in sight for the Southeast, where the drought and hotter-than-normal summer temperatures have caused more than $1 billion in agricultural damage.
In Memphis, Tenn., authorities handed out electric fans and set up an emergency shelter Tuesday as the temperature reached 104 degrees, tying a record. The thermometer read 102 degrees in Macon, Ga. Elsewhere in the Southeast, readings were largely in the 90s.
The drought also is drying up rivers and bringing sharks and other saltwater species into the Altamaha River near Brunswick, Ga., because of the higher salinity of the water.
"It is not uncommon to have sharks and other such creatures upriver when there has been little rainfall," said Carl Hall, a biologist with the Natural Resources Department. "They move up there in search of food."
The heat-related death toll in the Southeast, Midwest and Plains states climbed to 59 on Tuesday as authorities in Georgia attributed six more deaths since July 23 to high temperatures and Arkansas blamed heat for a man's death on Monday.