While the country’s drought conditions are significantly better than last year, the latest “Drought Monitor” shows that drought is tightening its grip in parched states, especially the dry Southwest.

Extreme or worse drought dominates from Nebraska to Texas, and though currently the worst of the drought is confined to the western Corn Belt, forecasters expect it to trek further eastward.

These extreme drought conditions led one Texas blogger to call it the “drought-ocalpse,” and with cattle numbers in Texas driven to record lows this year by the drought, it’s easy to see why.  

‘Drought-ocalypse’ rages in the SouthwestThe drought is also forcing New Mexico into a state of emergency, with 98 percent of the state in severe or worse drought.  Byron Morton, meteorologist with KOAT News 7 out of Albuquerque, N.M., explained that the state is deep in drought.

"It's the worst since record keeping began 118 years ago," Morton said.

Some towns in the state are running out of water, fast. Read more here.

The drought isn’t just confined to the Southwest. It extends to California and Oregon to the west and is expanding further east, too. Radio Iowa reports that in Iowa, many are calling July’s dry spell a “flash drought,” though Iowa State University Extension climatologist, Elwyn Taylor, disagrees.

Around 20 percent of the state is experiencing abnormal dryness, and says that right now it’s too early to panic.

“And this is a county-by-county deal, so there’ll be some counties in drought. We don’t know this will be the whole corn belt like it was last year,” Taylor says. “The trend for the nation this year for corn yield would be 160 bushels per acre. And so, if we ended up with a yield of 144 or less — then we’re in a drought.”

See Taylor’s interview here.

All states east of the Mississippi River have been spared from the wrath of this year’s drought, and at least for now, forecasters expect it to stay that way.

Click here to read the full “Drought Monitor” report.