A devastating drought intensified across Texas over the last week, with high winds and heat causing "massive crop losses," and weather experts said Thursday that little relief was in sight.
The latest report from a consortium of national climate experts, dubbed the Drought Monitor, said drought worsened along the Texas border with Oklahoma, and in western, central and southern Texas.
Ranchers were struggling to feed and water cattle, and farmers were left to watch their crops shrivel into the dusty soil. Some experts estimated that producers were giving up on up to 70 percent of the state's wheat acreage.
"There are some scary things going on in Texas," said Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, which released its weekly drought analysis Thursday morning.
Fuchs said the drought in Texas was one of the worst in decades. The dramatically lower-than-normal amount of moisture in the soil has caused widespread crop failures, including to the state's hard red winter wheat crop.
Texas is a key production area for wheat. The losses there and in parts of the U.S. Plains hit by drought will aggravate already short supplies around the world.
Data issued Thursday by a consortium of national climate experts said 95 percent of Texas was suffering "severe drought," or worse, up from 92 percent a week earlier. More than 70 percent of the state was in the worse conditions of "extreme drought" or "exceptional drought." That is up from 68 percent a week ago in extreme and exceptional drought.
"High temperatures combined with no precipitation and high winds continue to drive widespread wildfires and have led to massive crop losses," the latest Drought Monitor report stated.
There was a slight alleviation of drought in central and eastern Oklahoma as more than seven inches of rain fell during the past week.
But for farmers farther south, there was no relief in sight.
Forecasters predicted that from May 3 through 7, odds favor warmer-than-normal temperatures along the Gulf Coast from the Southwest to the Southeast.
Fuchs said the approach of summer and higher heat will only intensify the drought, unless rains come soon.
"If rains don't develop and help lessen the drought situation before we really get into summer, there are going to be more problems than what we've seen right now," Fuchs said.
The drought in Texas and the Southwest comes at the same time that violent storms are spawning flooding and deadly tornadoes through parts of the Midwest and Southeast.
Excessive rainfall has slowed the planting of corn in the nation's bread basket and could threaten other crops like soybeans.
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