more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought and
most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions.
Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more land, according to
federal figures released Monday. So far, there's little risk of a Dust Bowl-type
catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn't come soon.
In its monthly drought report, the National Climatic Data Center in
Asheville, N.C., announced that 55 percent of the country was in a moderate to
extreme drought at the end of June. The parched conditions expanded last month
in the West, the Great Plains and the Midwest, fueled by the 14th warmest and
10th driest June on record, the report said. Topsoil has turned dry while "crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years," the report said.