2 July 2014 Last updated at 17:49 ET
How the drought is affecting crops and the land in Oklahoma
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A menacing cloud of dust swirling above a parched field in Oklahoma is a disturbing reminder of the power of drought.
All too often here, when the land is baked dry, the winds can strip away an inch of precious topsoil in as little as 24 hours, soil that has taken centuries to form.
In the course of the most arid years, each acre of farmland can lose up to 70 tons of soil and then, wherever the dust is dumped, it can smother the crops it lands on.
In the Oklahoma Panhandle, the most remote area of the state, recent rainfall has been so meagre that fears have been kindled of a return to the apocalyptic “Dust Bowl” scenes of the 1930s.
Back then, agriculture collapsed and thousands of people left.
A survivor of the 1930s, 101-year-old Millard Fowler, who recalls sheltering from the “rolling black clouds” of the Dust Bowl, has seen similar conditions this year.
“We try to do the right things and have modern technology but Mother Nature still dictates what happens”
Rick Kochenower Oklahoma State University
“Somebody asked me the other day if dust storms would happen again and I said ‘they already have’ – we’ve had some pretty good dust storms this spring,” he said.
One of the worst was filmed by a local woman, LeLayne Tapp, and the video showed dust engulfing the community of Boise City, turning the sunlight orange and making roads impassable.