The drought of 1988 had widespread impacts in the midwestern United States. Crop yields were reduced significantly. Barge traffic on the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers was severely disrupted. Municipal water supplies in some communities were reduced to critically low levels. In the face of these and other serious impacts, it is worthwhile to examine the climatological severity of this drought. For instance, was this drought comparable to the worst droughts in this century, as was frequently stated in news reports? Or, alternatively, were these serious impacts at least partially the result of a lack of flexibility in our socioeconomic system and in the experience of decision makers to adapt to serious drought?