While tornadoes, floods and fires have raged across the United States, in China the mix of weather is just as variable. Yesterday in the city of Weihai, in east China's Shandong province, blowing sand from the Gobi desert necessitated a "yellow" wind alert. Last weekend, floods in the south resulted in a fatal landslide. And along the east coast, droughts have reduced the Yangtze River to its lowest water levels in 50 years.
Officials from the Yangtze River Waterway Bureau said Wednesday that they have closed a 185-kilometer (115-mile) stretch of river from Wuhan to Yueyang to oceangoing vessels.
The river near Wuhan is down to only about 10 feet. The river, normally almost 500 feet wide, has shriveled to only about 160 feet at its narrowest.
Since April 30, more than 700 ships have been stranded in the shrunken waterway in Huzhou, Xinhua News Agency reported. Officials believe the shallow water will continue hindering shipping until June.
"The severe drought, the first seen in the past half-century, has kept the water level in the Yangtze the lowest since 2003, when the Three Gorges Dam went into operation," said Wu Heping, director of the Wuhan Waterway bureau, in an interview with China Daily.