Image: Dried-up area of Lake EV Spence outside of Robert Lee, Texas.
Albert Cesare  /  AP
A dried-up area of Lake EV Spence outside of Robert Lee, Texas, exemplifies the state's record-setting heat.
msnbc.com news services
updated 9/8/2011 3:41:36 PM ET 2011-09-08T19:41:36

Texas just finished the hottest June through August on record for any state in the U.S., weather officials said Thursday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy told The Associated Press that Texas' 86.8 degree Fahrenheit average beat out Oklahoma's 85.2 degrees in 1934.

That Dust Bowl year is now third on the list for the three-month span, behind No. 2 Oklahoma's heat wave this June through August at 86.5 degrees.

Both states and others in the nation's southern tier have baked in triple-digit heat this summer.

Louisiana's heat this June through August puts it in the fourth spot all-time, 84.5 degrees.

Drought more dire
The records were announced as raging wildfires and scorching heat continued across the South over the past week, adding to the human, economic and agricultural toll of a historic drought that climatologists said was only growing more dire.

A tropical storm that moved out of the Gulf of Mexico within the last week brought no relief and instead brought high winds that fueled wildfires, according to a weekly report dubbed the U.S. Drought Monitor that was issued Thursday by a consortium of state and federal climatologists.

"In a bit of cruel irony, it was the strong and persistent winds of (Tropical storm) Lee, which just missed the mark of the drought's epicenter in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, that fanned the large number of fire outbreaks in Texas," the report said.

"These people are really suffering out there," said climatologist Mark Svoboda, who is stationed at the University of Nebraska's National Drought Mitigation Center. "How can it get any worse?"

Svoboda said a new tropical storm dubbed Nate was moving toward southern Texas and should make landfall late next week.

"We'll see where that goes. That might be the next potential shot of relief for Texas," Svoboda said.

Texas has been the hardest hit by the long-lasting drought, which is the longest on record for the key agricultural state.

Story: Texas wildfire consumes hundreds more homes

According to the Drought Monitor levels of extreme and exceptional drought in Texas totaled 95.68 percent, up from 95.04 percent of that state's area a week earlier, the Drought Monitor reported.

The dry conditions, coupled with persistent temperatures well above 100 degrees, has sparked wildfires throughout the state. So far this year, 18,719 fires have burned over 3.5 million acres and thousands of homes and other structures, according to the Texas Forest Service.

More than 95 percent of the state's pasture and rangelands are rated as poor or very poor, leaving little for livestock to eat or drink. Texas officials peg damages at more than $5 billion.

Oklahoma also continues to suffer. Extreme and exceptional levels of drought now are spread across 85.44 percent of the state, up from 85.37 percent a week earlier. New Mexico saw extreme and exceptional drought levels grow to 72.19 percent of the state, up from 64.88 percent, the Drought Monitor reported.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Texas sets US heat record

  1. Closed captioning of: Texas sets US heat record

    >>> the national weather service said today texas had the hottest summer of any state ever on record. the average temperature was 86.8 degrees, it was hotter and drier than during the dust bowl . we're dealing with the consequences of this extreme weather , the massive wildfires.

    >> reporter: calmer winds and cooler temperatures are giving strike teams a fighting chance along the front lines.

    >> in this stage of the fire, it's critical that we do not allow those hot spots to get larger in size, and cause the fire to kind of wake up again.

    >> reporter: but make no mistake, the wildfires in texas are still far from sleeping. in bastrop, only 30% contained, burning across more than 35,000 acres and today the number of homes destroyed has more than doubled from 576 to almost 1,400 now. but those numbers, the maps and charts don't mean so much for a special group of survivors.

    >> i'm scared.

    >> reporter: this morning, on the doors of the command center , a series of handwritten notes appeared. the crayons and markers painting a picture of the wildfire through the eyes of the children.

    >> the fire came by the house and the house is not getting burned.

    >> reporter: their words are simple but so telling. one of the notes reads, we haven't seen our house in three days, we don't know if you saved it, but thank you for trying. and 4-year-old jessica smith understands that fear.

    >> i'm sad.

    >> reporter: 12-year-old devon davenport tried to stay strong. the hardest loss for devon is his dog.

    >> i couldn't get him out.

    >> reporter: tears are unfortunately the only significant water texas has seen or will see for a while. and that's not nearly enough to stop the fires, but the pain and the damage here continues to grow.

Photos: Wildfires scorch Texas

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  1. Courtney Hughes sits in the car as her family decides where to spend the night as residents along Kickapoo Road evacuate Waller County, Texas, on Wednesday. (Mayra Beltran / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fairchild, Texas, volunteer firefighter Dale Oberhoff gives his wife, Jackie, a kiss on the still smoldering ground after battling a grass fire near Needville, Texas, on Wednesday. (Patric Schneider / The Courier via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A panoramic view taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station shows wildfires burning in Texas on Wednesday. (Nasa / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Firefighters put out hot spots at a grass fire off Foster School Road near Needville, Texas, on Wednesday. (Patric Schneider / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. People walk near a vehicle at an intersection in the fire-ravaged area of Bastrop, Texas, on Wednesday. (William Luther / ASSOCIATED PRESS) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Montgomery, Texas, firefighter Reed Griffith crosses flames south of Todd Mission, Texas, on Wednesday. (Mayra Beltran / Houston Chronicle via P) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An aerial view shows burned houses and trees Sept. 7, east of Bastrop, Texas. Several large wildfires have been devastating Bastrop County for the past three days, but are now 30 percent contained, according to the Texas Forest Service. (Erich Schlegel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Gaye Jaco (back to camera) hugs stepdaughter Jennifer Leaver upon returning to their burned home on the east side of Lake Bastop on Tuesday, Sept. 6, outside Bastrop, Texas. Large large wildfires have been burning through Bastrop County for the past two days, and two people were reported dead Sept. 6. (Erich Schlegel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A burned-out house and cars are seen Sept. 6 near Magnolia. More than 1,000 homes have been destroyed in wildfires across rain-starved Texas, most of them in one devastating blaze near Austin that was still raging out of control. (Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronical via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A statue of a woman holding a water bucket stands in front of the remnants of a burned home on the east side of Lake Bastop on Sept. 6. (Erich Schlegel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Deborah Torkelson consoles her husband, Nathan, as they stand atop their destroyed home on Cardinal Loop in the Bastrop, Texas, Circle D Estates neighborhood on Sept. 6. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A firefighting helicopter loads up with water from a pond at the Lost Pines Golf Club as they fight a fire in Bastrop State Park on Sept. 6. (Erich Schlegel / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Ed Leighton looks through a box of papers Sept. 6 in what remains of his home that burned to the ground on Bluejay Road in Bastrop, Texas. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Parts of a car melted in the Bastrop, Texas, Circle D Estates neighborhood on Sept. 6. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Smoke from a wildfire hangs in the sky over Bastrop Sept. 6. Officials hoped that calmer winds would help firefighters battling wildfires that had destroyed about 1,000 homes in Texas and forced thousands of residents to flee. (Eric Gay / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Massive plumes of smoke block the sky on Highway 71 east of Bastrop on Sept. 5.


    See more Austin American-Statesman photographic coverage of the wildfires.

    (Jay Janner / Austin American-Stateman) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Chuck Tomlin uses a shovel to stop a fire in the back yard of a home in Bastrop's Tahitian Village neighborhood on Sept. 5. Tomlin volunteered to knock down flames that were just a few feet from the house of a neighbor he had never met.


    See more Austin American-Statesman photographic coverage of the wildfires.

    (Jay Janner / Austin American-Stateman) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Ryan Joseph Terranova packs up his belongings moments before evacuating his home at the Tahitian Village Apartments in Bastrop as a huge fire approaches on Sept. 5.


    See more Austin American-Statesman photographic coverage of the wildfires.

    (Jay Janner / Austin American-Stateman) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A plane drops fire retardant on a house in Bastrop's Tahitian Village neighborhood on Sept. 5.


    See more Austin American-Statesman photographic coverage of the wildfires.

    (Jay Janner / Austin American-Stateman) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Yolanda Rodriguez, left, comforts neighbor Virginia Esquivel in front of Esquivel's gutted home on Bois D'Arc Lane in Cedar Park on Sept. 4. Two homes on the block were destroyed, and a third was damaged.


    See more Austin American-Statesman photographic coverage of the wildfires.

    (Jay Janner / Austin American-Stateman) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Firefighters battle a large wildfire on Highway 71 near Smithville on Sept. 5. A roaring wildfire raced unchecked through rain-starved farm and ranchland in Texas, during a rapid advance fanned in part by howling winds from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. (Erich Schlegel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The chimney of a house remains standing as the rest of the building burns to the ground near Bastrop on Sept. 5. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Students from a local 4-H group drop off bottled water for firefighters and displaced residents at Magnolia High School where residents evacuated from their homes near a 300-acre wildfire gathered on Sept. 5. Nearly 8,000 residents in the Magnolia area were evacuated from their homes. (Eric S. Swist / The Courier via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Clarence Hoffman, left, and his son, Allen Hoffman, battle ground flames as they try to prevent the fire from advancing to the home of Patrick McAlister near Bastrop on Sept. 5. (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. J Cindy Cruz wipes tears from her eyes as Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks with her at Bastrop Middle School in Bastrop on Sept. 5. (Alberto Mart├Čnez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Residents evacuate their animals as a wildfire threatens the area near Sleepy Hollow Road and Post Oak Drive in Conroe, Texas, on Sept. 5. (Karl Anderson / The Courier via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A wildfire burns out of control in Bastrop State Park near Bastrop on Sept. 5. (Larry W. Smith / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A large plume of smoke rises from a wildfire as onlookers watch from a hill on Sept. 5, in Bastrop. (Eric Gay / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Particia Bloodworth-Neville and her daughter Bailey Neville, 12, watch from Bluebonnet Volunteer Fire Station as a wildfire consumes land around their central Texas home on Sept. 5 in Bastrop. (Trent Lesikar / The Daily Texan via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Lone Camp Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Joe Crawford fights a wildfire on Sept. 1 in Graford, Texas. (Tom Pennington / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Mike Hester holds a cat he rescued from an area destroyed by a wildfire at Possum Kingdom Lake on Aug. 31. (LM Otero / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. An air tanker drops fire retardant on a hot spot at Possum Kingdom Lake on Aug. 31 after a wildfire swept through the area. (LM Otero / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer looks over an area destroyed by a wildfire at Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas, on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The wildfire swept through the neighborhood Tuesday, Aug. 30, destroying 25 homes and turning the normally lush landscape into a blackened mess. (LM Otero / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Eric Kemper holds a cup which reads 'It's a girl' as he looks through the debris of his home after it was destroyed by fire as wildfires burn out of control near Bastrop, Texas September 6, 2011. Wildfires sweeping across drought-stricken Texas have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and forced thousands of evacuations in the past several days, officials said. The worst of the fires, the Bastrop County Complex fire located about 30 miles/48 km southeast of Austin in the central part of the state, has destroyed up to 600 homes, the most of any single fire in Texas history. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER) (Mike Stone / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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