THE WEATHER: The Bitter Draught

Into the powdery trough of the Southwest plains in recent weeks have come sporadic showers and light snows. To the dry-skinned farmers and ranchers who have been sitting out a searing drought for as long as eight years, the kiss of moisture on the crumbling land stirred a pulse-pounding flicker of hope; now, perhaps, seasonal rains would soak the ravaged soil, renew the empty springs. Last week the hoped-for moisture came. But it was a bitter draught.

Out of the Gulf of Mexico swept a curtain of snow. It whistled through the stricken plains (see map), lashing into the land...

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