click image to zoomThe Drought Monitor map release on May 22, 2014. Meteorologists have good news for the southern Plains as rain is set to return over the weekend. However, even with several inches of rain forecast over some of the driest portions of Texas and Oklahoma, it’s unlikely to make a dent in the deficit left by several years of ongoing drought.
According to the latest Drought Monitor, 40 percent of Texas and 61 percent of Oklahoma are stuck in extreme or exceptional drought. In Texas, nearly 20 towns could run out of water within the next 90 days. In neighboring Oklahoma, drought-withered wheat could have national effect.
The worst of the drought has also pushed further to the north, expanding as far as southern Nebraska. In Kansas, nearly half of the state is in extreme or worse drought. Bob Gillen, director of the K-State Agricultural Research Center in Hays, Kan., explained to the Hays Post that the drought, now in its fourth year, is the state’s third worst in the last century.
Further to the west, California remains the driest state in the nation. Seventy-seven percent of the Golden State is in extreme to exceptional drought, unchanged for the fifth consecutive week.
The drought is expected to cost the state around $1.7 billion in lost agricultural production in a new study by the University of California. In addition, it could cost California around 14,500 seasonal and full-time jobs this year. Read more here.
The land has been hit hard by the drought, and reports show San Joaquin Valley – roughly the size of Rhode Island - sinking in the intense drought conditions.
"About 11 inches a year ... is among the fastest rates ever measured in the San Joaquin Valley," USGS hydrologist Michelle Sneed told The Weather Channel. "It’s a very large subsidence bowl. We were also surprised the high rate of subsidence."
And to make matters worse, the damage is irreversible.
"This subsidence is permanent," she adds. "If water levels come back up, the subsidence will not be recovered. The land will stay subsided."