By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Heavy rains brought some relief to drought-stricken Texas over the last week, but much more was needed to help the U.S. South escape the historic drought that has gripped the region for months.
The parched conditions in Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana and through parts of other southern states are persisting, and the high heat and lack of substantial rainfall is forecast to continue, according to a report issued Thursday by U.S. climatologists.
The "Drought Monitor" report released on Thursday from a consortium of national climate experts said that over the last week, the worst levels of drought were mitigated slightly in Texas, epicenter of what climatologist call the worst drought in decades. Still, nearly 95 percent of the key farming state remains in "severe" drought or worse.
Conditions in Oklahoma grew more dire with the worst levels of drought intensifying and 61 percent of the state now in severe drought or worse, up from 56 percent a week ago.
Arizona also kept suffering, as high heat and lack of rain whipped up large dust storms that blew on 50-mile-per-hour winds through Phoenix. The storm downed trees, tossed yard furniture, and snuffed out visibility across an area of some 50 miles at its peak on Tuesday evening.
Louisiana remained locked in drought, with the worst level - exceptional drought - increasing slightly from 63.50 percent of the state to 63.70 percent over the last week.
The drought conditions have ravaged the region, sparking thousands of wildfires, drying up grazing land needed for cattle, and ruining thousands of acres of wheat and other crops.
Texas experienced its driest spring on record with only a fraction of the rainfall typically seen.
The southern Plains should remain mostly rain-free and temperatures are expected to be above normal for much of the country over the next week, according to the Drought Monitor report.
Separately, however, the upper Midwest and northern Plains remain vulnerable to flooding as many rivers remain above flood stage. The threat for more flooding will continue through the summer, forecasters at NOAA's National Weather Service said Wednesday.
(Editing by David Gregorio)