updated 2/15/2006 1:59:33 PM ET 2006-02-15T18:59:33

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor drew from her childhood on a ranch in Arizona to drive home a point: the bone-dry state badly needs rain.

"I remember growing up on that ranch how all we did all year long was look for clouds and hope for rain," she said Tuesday at a ceremony marking Arizona's 94th anniversary as a state. "And I think we better all engage in that in the months to come before everything in Arizona just dries up completely. It looks pretty serious."

Arizona is suffering from significantly lower levels of rainfall than usual. The last measurable rainfall at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport came 118 days ago.

The scarcity of rain has prompted experts to say that Arizona could face a devastating wildfire season this summer. Long-range forecasts call for continued warm and dry weather over Arizona well into the spring, increasing the risk of water shortages in rural communities that rely on runoff-fed wells.

"I want all of you to prepare now for doing rain dances," O'Connor said. "We have a serious problem in our state without rain water."

O'Connor, a former Arizona legislator who grew up on a cattle ranch in eastern Arizona, retired last month after 25 years on the nation's high court.

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