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Texas fires: 80% of state in 'exceptional' drought

September 1, 2011 |  3:59 pm

Draught

The U.S. Drought Monitor has released a new map of drought conditions across the nation, and it's not a pretty picture for Texas. About 80% of the state is currently experiencing exceptional drought.

See what looks like a bloody scab in the bottom center of the country? The brick-red color indicates exceptional drought. The brighter red is considered the not-quite-as-bad extreme drought. And the sunny yellow color? That's only severe drought.

Slightly more than 99% of the state is in severe drought or worse. Here's a closer view.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map is put together by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Even as the East Coast is deluged by water -- a wet spring and summer is exacerbating the flood damage that hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Irene brought -- Texas and southern Oklahoma continue to experience bone-dry conditions. This week saw another round of above-normal temperatures with highs over 110 degrees.

The Associated Press calls it the worst drought on record. As of Thursday, Wichita Falls, Texas, had had 95 days of 100-plus temperatures. San Angelo, Texas, had had 93 days of 100-plus temperatures.

To make matters worse, the drought conditions have led to a spate of destructive fires. Across Texas, firefighters are battling 14 wildfires that have burned nearly 20,900 acres, April Saginor, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service, said in an interview with The Times.

And since January, more than 18,000 wildfires have broken out across Texas, charring about 3.4 million acres and destroying 660 homes.

Little relief is in sight. Forecasters don't expect drought conditions to improve until November.

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