Rain and snow forecast for parts of the Pacific coast of northern California and Oregon could herald a shift in weather patterns away from the creeping drought that was threatening to push the western United States into the same devastating drought suffered in the U.S. South.
Forecasts are projecting 10 to 15 inches of rain over the next few days along the Pacific coast of northern California and Oregon with at least a few feet of snow possible in the mountain ranges of the northwest states to include the Cascades, Rockies and Sierra Nevada, according to a weekly climatology report issued on Thursday.
Meanwhile, signs of drought relief were also noted in parts of the U.S. South and central Plains as rainfall eased drought conditions in parts of Oklahoma, Texas, southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana, the Drought Monitor report stated.
A small area of southern and southwestern Kansas grew worse over the last week, however.
Last year, drought caused billions of dollars in damages to crops, livestock, and timber, and wildfires destroyed thousands of acres, primarily across the U.S. South, with the epicenter of the damage in Texas.
Fears have mounted that drought will persist through 2012, which would significantly hinder crop and livestock production.
But those fears have eased slightly as strong storm systems that included both rain and snow have recently improved conditions in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
In the Drought Monitor report issued Thursday, Texas drought levels improved slightly, with 82.60 percent of the state considered in at least "severe" drought, improved from 82.69 percent a week earlier.
The one-year period between Nov. 1, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2011, was the driest in the state's history, and three-month period of June to August in Texas was the hottest ever reported by any state in U.S. history, according to state and federal climate experts.
Moderate drought was reported for 46.34 percent of California, unchanged from the previous week, while abnormally dry conditions spread to 81.26 percent of the state, up from 80.90 percent, the Drought Monitor said.
Nevada had 88 percent of the state rated abnormally dry and 33 percent rated in moderate drought, unchanged from the prior week.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)