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Drought hangs on in western U.S.

  |   Feb. 22, 2013 at 3:02 PM
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Drought will persist in parts of the United States, with the West being particularly hard-hit, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

A NOAA assessment said drought conditions had abated in most of the nation east of the Mississippi River, but the portion of the country still facing drought -- most of the West and Florida -- should expect it "to persist or intensify," the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

More than two-thirds of the country is under abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions, "which, although serious, is a slight improvement since fall 2012," the National Drought Early Warning Outlook issued by NOAA said.

"The 2012-2013 drought has serious implications for agriculture, navigation, recreation and municipal water supplies, costing the nation at least $35 billion in economic losses," the outlook said.

Most of the United States would experience higher-than-usual temperatures over the next three months and much of the West, down through Texas, the Gulf Coast and the Southeast, would have below-normal precipitation, NOAA said.

Snowpack in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico is "less than 50 percent of normal," the outlook said, raising the possibility farms and cities in California and other western states could face considerable water challenges this summer.

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