Hot temperatures and no rain are heating and drying up the Midwest's rivers and streams and killing thousands of fish in the process.
The rivers' low flows combined with July's record heat are heating some rivers up to 100°F, said Chief of Division of Fisheries Debbie Bruce.
According to Illinois Department of Natural Resources Biologist Dan Stephenson, hundreds of thousands of fish are already dead from the hot, dry weather.
Reports of fish kills - when fish die from the low oxygen levels in the water - happen every summer when temperatures rise, Bruce said. After waters hit 90°F, they can hold very little oxygen necessary for the fish to stay alive.
However, the combination of record-breaking temperatures and record-low waters has made the amount of fish kills more widespread this year, she said.
"Fish tend to recover, but what we don't know is how long the drought is going to last," Bruce said. "If it continues into next year, this could be very significant."
Dead fish float in a drying pond in Missouri earlier this July, where lakes and streams have reached water temperatures of nearly 100°F. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A quick look at the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the worst of the drought is affecting the center of the country. More than half of the continental U.S. is experiencing drought.
Currently, 98 of Illinois's 102 counties have been declared disaster areas from the drought, according to the state's Drought Response Task Force. The remaining four are still seeking disaster declaration.
Lakes in Iowa are reaching record-low water levels. Iowa DNR officers report that Storm Lake in northwestern Iowa is at its lowest point ever, a mere 18 inches in parts that are normally 43 inches deep.
"We started to see some incidental fish kills in shallow ponds, then everybody got alarmed when we started seeing it in the lower parts of the Des Moines River," said Iowa DNR Spokesman Kevin Baskins.
About 40,000 sturgeon were killed in Iowa last week, according to an Associated Press report. Catfish, carp and bass have also fallen victim to the drought.
"It's had some kind of impact on virtually every fish," Baskins said.
Baskins said they're praying for cooler temperatures as the fall months begin to arrive - but not too cold.
"What we're worried about at this point is with these water levels so low, if it starts freezing soon, we could see some significant fish kills during winter," he said.
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Fresno, CA (2001)
Six 100+ degree days this month. This broke the old May record of five days set in May 1889.
Late May snowstorm blanketed eastern part of state with 4 to 6 inches.
International Falls, MN (1992)
Late season snow flurries.