More of Nebraska is covered by the worst stage of drought than any other state, according to the latest drought map released by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The most severe category of drought -- exceptional -- spread dramatically from less than a quarter of the state to almost three-quarters in the week ended Tuesday, according to the Drought Monitor data published online Thursday. 

Almost 98 percent of the state was in one of the two worst stages -- exceptional and extreme -- a week ago, and that changed little during the week.   But the portion that was in exceptional drought grew from 23.33 percent to 70.58 percent. 

The exceptional drought spread from the central part of Nebraska  and the southern Panhandle to cover almost the entire Panhandle, central Nebraska and the northeast. The southeast remained in extreme drought with a couple of small pockets of severe drought.  

The exceptional category of drought also spread in Kansas and covered about 61 percent as of Tuesday, the Drought Monitor showed.  About 2.36 percent of Iowa was in exceptional drought, but 62.15 percent of the state was in severe or exceptional drought.

The patterns in place now are likely to persist in the fall, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center and author of this week's Drought Monitor.  The latest Seasonal Drought Outlook, released Thursday and valid through Nov. 30, shows improvements over the southwestern United States., especially in Arizona and the Four Corners region. “But drought is likely to persist through much of the Great Basin, Rocky Mountains and central and southern Plains," he said.

In an interview, Fuchs said it would be premature to compare the drought of 2012 in Nebraska with those earlier than 1988, mainly because this drought hasn't proven it can persist  into another year.   

Over the rest of the nation, the big change of this week has been the track of the remnants of Hurricane Isaac.  Despite dramatic rainfall totals in some areas (parts of Louisiana received 10 inches, which caused flooding; areas of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana recorded 2-6 inches), drought intensified over much of the Great Plains. 

Johnson County Airport in Olathe, Kan., got almost 6  inches of rain over last weekend.  

Statistics released with the drought map showed that the area of the United States in moderate drought or worse increased to 53.06 percent of the country, up from 52.63 percent last week.

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