Severe Drought Continues to Fuel Texas Fires

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While states along the Mississippi River are dealing with too much water, others don't have enough.

Some parts of Texas have not seen significant rain since last August.

Farms fields and cattle ponds are drying up and the drought has fueled widespread wildfires that are engulfing thousands of square miles across the Lone Star State.

May is typically the wettest month in Texas. Farmers planting on non-irrigated acres are clinging to hope that much need rain arrives in the next few weeks.

"It doesn't look bright right at the moment, but I haven't given up yet," cotton producer Rickey Bearden said. Bearden grows about two-thirds of his 9,000 acres without irrigation in West Texas.

"We'll have to have some help from Mother's Nature," he said. 

In southern Arizona, one fire chief said conditions are the driest they've been in a quarter century.

Some scientists believe that the drought could be caused by a strong La Nina weather oscillation, a cooling of the central Pacific Ocean.  They say the current weather pattern is the sixth strongest on record. 

"It's a shift of the jet stream, providing all that moisture and shifting it away from the south, so you've seen a lot of drought in Texas," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the federal government's Climate Prediction Center in Silver Spring, Md.

Halpert said the pattern is "kind of on its last legs," and he expects a neutral condition for much of the summer.

Victor Murphy of the National Weather Service in Fort Worth said the location for the wet weather and the drought "is textbook."

"You tend to get real strong demarcation, and this year the magnitude of the extremes is exaggerated," Murphy said.

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