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Drought worsens in many areas of U.S.

Agriculture.com Staff 01/26/2006 @ 1:52pm

CENTRAL CITY, Neb. (Dow Jones)--A Drought Monitor report issued Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Weather Service and National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., said drought continued to worsen in the southern Plains and Desert Southwest last week, although moisture conditions improved in the Northwest and Southeast.

Dry and unseasonably warm conditions again dominated the Great Plains, with drought conditions deepening from southeastern Kansas to central Texas, a region that has received less than 50% of normal precipitation during the past 90 days.

An area from Dallas, Texas, to Ft. Smith, Ark., remains the driest in the U.S., gripped by a maximum-level drought of exceptional proportions. Lubbock, Texas, had gone 88 consecutive days without measurable precipitation as of Jan. 23, breaking the all-time record for that location, set from late 1921 and early 1922.

Gov. Rick Perry has declared a disaster in all 254 Texas counties because of severe drought conditions and requested disaster assistance from USDA.

Drought continued to diminish in this region last week, with abnormally dry conditions pushed from additional areas of Idaho and western Montana, where precipitation since Oct. 1 has averaged at least 150% of normal.

Abnormally dry conditions - the formal precursor to drought - did expand north out of Wyoming, into southern Montana, an area where snowpack levels are well below normal for this time of year.

A dry weather pattern continues to plague the Southwest, expanding severe drought conditions to more of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico last week. Abnormally dry conditions were also expanded to cover all of southeastern Utah.

The region continues to see low levels of precipitation (less than 25% of normal) for what is normally one of the wettest times of the year. Tucson, AZ, has recorded just 0.32 inches of precipitation for the fall/winter "wet season", which is 9% of normal.

Significant precipitation continued to fall across the South last week, with 2.00 to 4.00 inches of rain commonly reported over Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and eastern Arkansas. The downpours eradicated an area of severe drought in Kentucky and also virtually eliminated drought from Tennessee.

Drought conditions continued to worsen in Missouri last week. West-central and southwestern Missouri has received no more than half of normal precipitation during the past three months. Joplin, Mo., has received 4.07 inches of precipitation since Oct. 1, which is just 33% of normal. Extreme drought continues to persist in northern Illinois and adjacent areas of other states, despite some modest, albeit welcomed precipitation last week.

Long-standing weather patterns are expected to continue perpetuating a high-pressure ridge over the western half of the U.S. and a low-pressure trough over the eastern U.S. during the next week. "Precipitation is projected to be greatest over the Gulf Coast and Pacific Northwest," said Drought Monitor author Brian Fuchs. Temperatures are anticipated to be well above normal in the western two-thirds of the U.S. and below normal in the eastern U.S. through the period.

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