Parts of Texas are finally getting some much-needed rain this weekend, which one resident of the parched Panhandle tells CNN is "like manna from heaven."
It still won't be enough to dent the worst one-year drought in the state's history, though, and the rise of La Niña could keep Texas dangerously dry for months to come, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently warned.
In one sign of how dire the drought has become, the Associated Press reports that wildlife biologists are evacuating two species of fish from the shrinking Brazos River in West Texas. The evacuations of smalleye shiners and sharpnose shiners — both of which were already candidates for the endangered species list even before the drought — are "the first of what could be several rescue operations involving fish," the AP reports.
The two species are abundant in the Brazos River, according to state wildlife officials, but they're found nowhere else on Earth and are key to the river's ecosystem. They need about 100 miles of open water to reproduce, but the dwindling Brazos can no longer offer them that much space — and their lifespan is only about two years.
"If this drought continues for another year and they haven't reproduced ... we may lose the entire population," Texas Tech ecologist Gene Wilde tells the AP. "If we lose them, we won't have the same ecological vitality." Texas is home to at least 86 species that are considered threatened or endangered, and the shiner evacuations could just be the beginning. Biologists are reportedly also considering rescuing mussels from the San Saba, Colorado and Llano rivers, as well as fountain darters and Texas blind salamanders from the Comal River and San Marcos Springs near Austin.
In other drought news, a month-old puppy was rescued Thursday in Garland, Texas, after falling into a crack in the ground that was blamed on dry conditions. Animal-services officers used shovels and their bare hands to widen the crack, and also softened the ground with water so the dog could be removed. See the video below:
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