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Drought eases in Southeast but worsens in the West

7:35 PM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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Drought continued to diminish in the Southeast and intensify across much of the West this week, according to Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal website that tracks drought. Parts of every state west of the Mississippi River are in a drought, except for Washington.

The entire state of Colorado remained in a drought. Wednesday, for the first time in 11 years, mandatory water restrictions were ordered for Denver because of the extended dryness. This is what the Denver Board of Water Commissioners calls a "Stage 2" drought, and includes restrictions on lawn irrigation, hotel laundry, car washing and other non-essential uses of water.

"The last time we declared a Stage 2 drought was in 2002," Greg Austin, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, said Wednesday. "We are facing a more serious drought now than we faced then."

The entire state of California is considered to be either abnormally dry or in a drought, which is the highest percentage for the Golden State since October 2009. California has endured its driest January and February on record.

As of this week, almost 99% of Texas is either abnormally dry or in a drought. Parts of eastern Texas are 8 to 16 inches below normal precipitation for the past six months, meteorologist Anthony Artusa said in this week's Drought Monitor. In the Texas Panhandle, he says, the Greenbelt Lake reservoir has dropped to 12% of capacity.

There was some good news in the Southeast: For the first time since September 2010, the entire state of Georgia is out of "severe" drought conditions, thanks to recent heavy rainfall, the Drought Monitor reports. Georgia experienced its wettest February statewide, and March has also been quite wet.

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

GANNETT/USA Today

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