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Harsh Weather Continues to Threaten after Hottest Year on Record
January 9, 2013

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Harsh, dry weather continues to affect the U.S., with record highs in temperatures and record lows in water levels and crop conditions.

The U.S. Government has a declared a natural disaster area in large parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, making the major wheat-growing states eligible for low-interest emergency loans. Between them, the four states grow one-third of entire wheat crop of the country.

The declaration came in part after the release of winter wheat crop conditions, which were the worst on record. Up to one-quarter of the entire crop will have to be abandoned, a report said. Winter wheat, planted in the autumn, lies dormant during the winter and is harvest the next spring. A projected period of intense cold in the next few weeks, coupled with expected heavy rains, are furthering the danger to the winter wheat crop.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared disaster areas in 597 counties in 14 states. More than half of those counties were in the Wheat Belt, which runs in a sort of vertical line from North Dakota to Texas.

A recent report declared 2012 the hottest year on record, with an average temperature in the contiguous United States registering 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, one full degree hotter than 1998, which had previously been the hottest year yet recorded. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that nearly 100 million Americans, one-third of the population, experienced 10 or more days in which temperatures were higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Americans suffered through 11 weather-related disasters in 2012. Losses from Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy and a deadly series of tornadoes in the Great Plains and South topped $1 billion.

The year was the 15th driest yet recorded. In July, a full 61 percent of the country was officially in drought. The combination of high temperatures and low water levels led to a devastating series of wildfires in the Southwest and Mountain West, with nearly 10 million acres being burned.

Record low water levels in the Mississippi River had meant that officials were considering closing the Mississippi River to barge traffic.

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