Drought Deepens in Plains States; Wheat Crop Suffers

(Reuters) - Hot and dry conditions in parts of middle America deepened an ongoing drought in many states over the last week, according to a climatology report issued Thursday.

October is typically the third-wettest month for Texas, but instead last month was the ninth-driest October statewide since 1895, according to the Drought Monitor report issued weekly by a consortium of state and federal climatology experts.

Texas and Oklahoma both recorded above-normal temperatures and little or no rain. Kansas and Nebraska also saw drought expansion.

The persistent drought was hindering growth of the new winter wheat crop in those states, as soil moisture levels were too low to spur normal plant development. Grazing for livestock was also poor as pastures remained parched.

Roughly 59.48 percent of the contiguous United States was suffering from at least "moderate" drought as of Nov. 6, down from 60.16 percent a week earlier, according to Thursday's Drought Monitor, a weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists.

But the portion of the contiguous United States under "extreme" or "exceptional" drought - the two most dire classifications - ticked up to 19.36 percent from 19.04 percent.

In the High Plains, which include Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, severe or worse drought levels covered 83.94 percent of the region, up from 83.87 percent of the region a week earlier. An estimated 57.54 percent of the region was in extreme or worse drought, up from 57.02 percent a week earlier.

Climatologists said many areas had not seen much if any rain for three weeks or more and topsoil and subsoil moisture levels continued to drop. Surface water supplies remained short as well.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; editing by Jim Marshall)

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