JACKSON, Miss. – The drought in Mississippi is not only affecting recreational activities such as bonfires and camping in Central Mississippi and the Delta, but it’s also affecting the state’s highways, according to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).
“Our roads have suffered the effects of extreme loss of rainfall throughout Mississippi,” said Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall. “Our biggest problem is large cracks in the asphalt that are becoming a hazard for the traveling public.”
Mississippi has large deposits of at least three different types of expansive clay soils, including Yazoo clay, which are spread over the state. These soils challenge MDOT during road construction and maintenance because of how they change with weather conditions.
For example, when Yazoo clay becomes wet, it may expand and occupy up to 400 percent more space than when it is at normal moisture level.When soil loses moisture, it shrink s. Shrinking creates a void between the soil and asphalt or layer of earth above it. As soil continues to shrink,the void becomes larger and the weight of the pavement and vehicles causes the roadway to sink and crack creating “slides” and “drop offs.”
Along with roads crumbling, the drought is also affecting Mississippi wheat farmers. The crop is usually planted between August and November, but with these extreme weather conditions, many farmers are struggling.
“Generally you have moisture that time of year [August-November] when you plant it it comes up, but this extended drought has, you know, we just didn’t have any moister to get the wheat up and even after we planted some, its just been laying there,” said Don Respess, the County Extension Agent in Coahoma County.
Respess added that more farmers are getting into year-around crops and soy beans, while less and less farmers choose to grow wheat.
Soy beans take up the most farming acreage in Mississippi.