60 percent of country locked in drought

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U.S. Drought Monitor Three-fifths of the nation remains locked in intense drought, and though wetter weather systems are providing relief for some in the south, the vast majority of the country isn’t as lucky. 

According to the latest Drought Monitor report, 60 percent of the contiguous United States is in moderate or worse drought. Though an improvement, the shift from last week is less than 1 percentage point.

By now the drought stretches as far west as California and as far east as Georgia. The worst drought-plagued areas are still Texas (33 percent in extreme or worse drought) to South Dakota (60 percent in extreme or worse drought). As a result, earlier this week USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack declared nearly 600 counties across 14 states as primary national disaster areas due to the drought.

See how your state is doing here.

The drought is now more intense than was reported in the July 3, 2012 Drought Monitor, when just 56 percent of the Lower 48 reported moderate or worse drought:

The USDA released its first Agricultural Weather Update of 2013 on Wednesday, showing that it “continues to take a severe toll on the nation’s hard red winter wheat, rangeland, and pastures, as well as the livestock sector.” 

Currently more than half – 54 percent – of the nation’s cattle are located in areas affected by severe or worse drought. Read more here.

The drought’s overwhelming grip on the nation has left some crop experts to urge producers to pray for snow in anticipation of planting in the coming months.

"We are still concerned about getting the leftovers out of the way from the drought of 2012. At this time we would not anticipate a national corn yield above the trend," Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor told Reuters. "Rather, we would expect a fourth consecutive year of below-trend crop, not as far below as in 2012 but still not up to par."

Read, “Corn Belt crop experts: Pray for snow.”

The amount of snow needed to make up for the deficit left by the drought would be astronomical. In an interview with USA Today, David Pearson, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service said that it is “an amount nobody would wish on their worst enemy.”

"It's so out of this world it wouldn't make much scientific sense (to guess). It would take a record-breaking snowfall for the season to get us back on track," Pearson said.

That would mean more upwards of 150 inches of snow, four times the average winter snowfall in Chicago. Read more USA Today.

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