By Angela Fritz and Judson Jones, CNN
More than 50% of the country was in some level of drought for the fourth week in a row, the US Drought Monitor reported Thursday, as the combination of extreme heat and low rainfall is drawing the moisture out of plants and soil.
And no region of the country has been spared.
The West and California remains engulfed in a multi-year megadrought. But even in the Northeast, a severe “flash drought” — one that comes on rapidly — has intensified and expanded from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts into New Hampshire and Maine.
A flash flood warning was issued for the western suburbs of St. Louis early Thursday morning as rainfall rates climbed to several inches per hour, prompting fears of a repeat of last week’s flooding emergency.
Scientists have warned that extremes on both ends of the spectrum will become more frequent and more intense as the planet warms.
Drought expands in Northeast
Drier conditions in the Northeast led to moderate and severe drought expansion in the New York City area and parts of New England, the Drought Monitor reported.
“Short-term moderate and severe drought continued to expand, especially in the New York City area, New Jersey, and New England, where rainfall was sparse and temperatures were a few degrees above normal,” the Drought Monitor said.
The worsening dry conditions have already strained water resources in the region, and officials have been warning residents to be mindful about their water usage. In mid-July, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont asked residents to dial down their water usage, in hopes of preventing “harm should the drought become prolonged.”
Forecasters expect this trend to continue as “temperatures will be 10 to 15 degrees above normal across the Northeast and New England on Thursday afternoon, where it will feel like the upper 90s and 100s,” said CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett.
The Drought Monitor noted that water restrictions and farming impacts were becoming more common in the region as the dry conditions persisted for another week.
Texas and the West
Drought also expanded in some areas of the Southern Plains, where temperatures are running warmer than normal — particularly in Texas, where the consequences have clawed into agriculture and cattle ranching.
“Drought impacts across Texas ranged from crop failure to water supply problems, in one case from a well failure,” the Drought Monitor reported.
Cattle ranchers in the state told CNN the conditions have been so dire and the economic strain so large that they can no longer maintain healthy livestock, which has forced them to sell off their cows for slaughter way ahead of schedule. Income is the bottom line on these decisions, the ranchers said, as the cost of vehicles, equipment and diesel skyrockets.
There was one place that saw improvement in the drought over the past week: heavy rainfall fell in parts of the Texas Panhandle east into Oklahoma, Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and portions of Tennessee, leading to an improvement in conditions across that region.
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