Snowstorms lessen drought's impact in key U.S. farm states
Feb 28 (Reuters) - Back-to-back winter storms, that dropped up to two feet of snow in some areas of the nation's midsection over the last week, lessened the harsh drought that has been gripping key U.S. farm states for months, climate experts said on Thursday. Oklahoma is one of the states that has benefited the most from the stormy onslaught, according to the weekly "Drought Monitor" report issued by a consortium of state and federal climatologists. Many other states in the region improved, raising hopes for the winter wheat crop now in the ground and spring crops like corn and soybeans that will be planted this spring.
The report said that as of Feb. 26:
* Oklahoma saw exceptional drought levels shrink to 11.80 percent of the state from 41.64 percent while extreme drought dropped to 61.65 percent from 86.80.
* Other key farming states in the High Plains region remained gripped by drought, but the level of severity was also declining. The worst level of drought, dubbed "exceptional," fell to 26.68 percent of the High Plains region, down from 29.11 percent a week earlier.
* In Kansas, the top U.S. wheat-growing state, exceptional drought fell to 21.58 percent of the state, down from 36.13, while the second-worst level of drought, dubbed extreme, fell to 69.75 from 75.19 percent.
* Exceptional drought in Nebraska fell to 76.94 percent of the state, down from 77.47 percent, while extreme drought declined to 96.10 percent from 96.23.
* Colorado saw exceptional drought hold steady at 24.92 percent of the state, and extreme drought unchanged at 51.14 percent.
* Drought also lessened in Texas and Missouri but deepened in New Mexico and California.
* Overall, for the contiguous United States, "severe" or worse levels of drought fell to 36.35 percent from 37.41. Severe drought is considered the third-worst category for drought, according to the report.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)