A report released Thursday from a consortium of national climate experts said Texas saw the highest levels of drought over the last week — rated as "exceptional" — jump from 43.97 percent of the state to 50.65 percent of the state. Devastating drought tightened its grip on Texas over the last week with more than half the state now suffering the most extreme level of drought measured by climatologists.
About 30 percent of Oklahoma continued to suffer severe and exceptional drought levels. The drought conditions have ravaged the region, sparking thousands of wildfires, drying up grazing land needed for cattle, and ruining thousands of acres of wheat and other crops.
Texas farmers and ranchers have already lost an estimated $1.5 billion, and officials said if the drought continues into June, losses for the nation's second largest agriculture producer will top $4 billion, making it the costliest season on record.The biggest expansion of harsh conditions is in west Texas, including the Texas panhandle. The situation will likely get worse before it gets better as summer heat sets in.
Though May rainfall totals are not confirmed yet, it is clear that only about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches of rain fell across the state, which will make the March-May spring period the driest on record. In San Antonio, for instance, from March through May, only 0.88 inches of rain fell, the second-driest such period since 1885, with the driest being in 1961, when only 0.52 inches of rain fell. Del Rio experienced its third-driest March to May period with only 1.12 inches of rain, the driest since 1906.
Texas has a long history with droughts, and since 1998, they have cost Texas agriculture $13.1 billion. Rest of the spring will determine how this year ranks in the history of Texas droughts.
The persistent drought in the south comes even as too much rain has been falling to the north. Widespread showers and thunderstorms dropped 2-3 inches of moisture across parts of southern Nebraska, northern and central Kansas, and northeastern Colorado over the last week. And in both North Dakota and South Dakota, flooding was prompting wide-spread evacuations. Heavy rains and a deep melting snowpack from a snowy winter have led to historic water levels in the Missouri River basin and nearby river systems from Idaho to North Dakota and down through South Dakota. (MSNBC)
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