THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Drought in Texas could extend into next year

By Paul J. Weber
Associated Press / August 5, 2011

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SAN ANTONIO - The drought that has turned Texas and parts of the Plains into a parched moonscape of cracked earth could persist into next year, prolonging the misery of farmers and ranchers who have endured a dry spell now expected to be the state’s worst since the 1950s.

The US Climate Prediction Center said yesterday that the La Niña weather phenomenon blamed for the crippling lack of rain might be back soon, just two months after the last La Niña ended. If that occurs, the drought would almost certainly extend into 2012.

The extreme dry conditions have been made worse by week after week of triple-digit temperatures, which have caused reservoirs to evaporate, crops to wither and animals and fish to die off by the thousands.

“The suffering and desperate need for relief grows with the rising temperatures and record-breaking heat that continue to scorch Texas with each passing day,’’ state Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples said.

Even the state’s feral hogs are hiding from the heat, postponing a new reality TV show about Texans gunning them down from helicopters.

Texas saw less than an inch of rain statewide in July, and more than 90 percent of the state is already in the two most extreme stages of drought.

“Anything below 2 to 3 inches of rainfall would be a fly-on-the-windshield type thing as far as improvement,’’ said Victor Murphy, a climate expert with the National Weather Service.

Also yesterday, the state climatologist declared this the most severe one-year drought on record in Texas. Officials expected to declare soon that it has become the worst drought since the 1950s.