msnbc.com's Miguel Llanos reports: 61 percent of the contiguous U.S. was listed in drought, up from 56 percent last week, according to the National Weather Service's Drought Monitor.
"Anytime we have a drought maturing in mid-summer, the chances for rapid intensification will be there," Gary McManus, Oklahoma's associate state climatologist, told msnbc.com. "Even normal heat and dry conditions can speed that drought along." More than 1,000 counties in 26 states were named natural-disaster areas on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The move gives that designation to any county in severe drought for eight consecutive weeks, speeding up low-cost loan assistance to farmers. Continue reading the full story.