Staggering California drought overshadows dry Plains

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click image to zoomDrought Monitor The latest Drought Monitor, released Thursday, painted a bleak picture for California. Drought continues to dominate the state, leaving a map dominated by hues of red and maroon, indicating the highest levels of drought reported.

Currently 72 percent of the state is considered to be in extreme or worse drought, up from last week’s report of 66 percent.

“A disappointing water year continued, with warm, dry weather quickly negating the benefits of the precipitation from February and early March across California and the Great Basin,” Drought Monitor author Erin Luebehusen wrote in the report. “Water-year (Since October 1, 2013) precipitation has averaged less than half of normal over most of California, and locally less than 30 percent of normal in the state’s D4 (Exceptional Drought) area.”

Thousands of California farmers rallied this week to fight against federal regulations cutting off water supplies, according to Fox News.

"I'm looking at tens of thousands of people being out of work," Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said. "We're probably going to have upwards of five, six, seven hundred thousand acres of farm ground that's going to be out of production." 

It’s led alfalfa farmer Michael Erskine to question what he should tell his son.

"I don't know what to tell him for a future," Erskine said. "Don't be a farmer. Government gets in the way."

Read, “Facing drought, California farmers rally against regulations limiting water supplies.”

While California’s drought has been the focus of coverage, the drought is also dominating further to the east. More than half of the country is in some degree of drought, from abnormal dryness (D0) to exceptional drought (D4), with substantial drought extending as far east at the Mississippi River.

In the Midwest, strong winds, widespread drought and low humidity led to a high risk for fires across New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. AccuWeather showed that on Thursday, these conditions also made for prime conditions for dust storms.  Read more.

Pockets of drought are even dotting parts of New England and the Gulf Coast. Read the full Drought Monitor map here.

So when will relief come? An updated Seasonal Drought Outlook map, released Thursday, showed easing drought conditions across the much of the Plains and Midwest. However, from California to western portions of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, drought is expected to persist through the end of June.

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