Drought conditions improve in many U.S. states -report
March 7 (Reuters) - Winter wheat growers in the U.S. High Plains were enjoying improved soil-moisture conditions in some key growing areas as the region's drought levels continued to retreat, according to a report issued on Thursday. Drought conditions improved because of recent snowstorms in top U.S. wheat producer Kansas as well as in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado, also key wheat-production states. But conditions grew worse in Texas. Altogether, eight U.S. states continued to suffer from the worst levels of drought, dubbed "exceptional" by the Drought Monitor, a report issued by a consortium of state and federal climatologists each week. According to this week's report:
* The High Plains region, the region hit the hardest by drought, showed exceptional drought falling to 25.87 percent of the region, down from 26.68 percent the previous week. The second-worst level of drought, called "extreme," fell to 55.76 percent, down from 56.77 percent.
* In Kansas, exceptional drought fell to 21.43 percent of the state from 21.58 percent, while extreme drought was unchanged at 69.75 percent of the state.
* Exceptional drought in Nebraska fell to 76.76 percent, down from 76.94 percent of the state, while extreme drought held steady at 96.10 percent.
* In Colorado, exceptional drought dropped to 21.22 percent of the state, down from 24.92 percent, and extreme drought fell to 48.04 percent down from 51.14 percent.
* Oklahoma is one of the states that has benefited the most from recent precipitation. Oklahoma saw exceptional drought levels shrink to 9.54 percent from 11.80 percent of the state though extreme drought held steady at 61.65.
* In Wyoming, exceptional drought held steady at 10.10 percent, but extreme drought improved to 54.74 percent from 56.71 percent.
* In New Mexico, exceptional drought improved slightly to 4.25 percent from 4.39 percent, while extreme drought levels were unchanged at 49.88 percent.
* South Dakota saw no improvement, holding steady with 29.58 percent in exceptional drought, and 63.23 percent in extreme drought.
* Drought increased slightly in Texas, with exceptional levels expanding to 7.41 percent from 5.17 percent, and extreme drought growing to cover 23.86 percent of the state from 22.02 percent the week earlier.
* Overall, for the contiguous United States, "severe" or worse levels of drought rose to 36.44 percent from 36.35 percent. Severe drought is considered the third-worst category for drought, according to the report.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Jan Paschal)