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Arkansas Drought 2012: Record Temperatures Challenge State

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Record temperatures of 100 degrees or higher drove home the point Thursday that the drought is getting worse across Arkansas.

The U.S. Drought Monitor updated its map to show the drought has moved from "severe" to "extreme" in parts of north, west and south Arkansas.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Buonanno in North Little Rock said the forecast shows a slight chance of rain next Tuesday or Wednesday, though the rain won't be enough to reverse the effects of the long dry spell.

The weather service said Little Rock reached 107 degrees Thursday, marking the highest temperature the city has ever seen in June. Harrison and Russellville each reached 106 degrees, breaking marks of 105 degrees for each city.

A two-month precipitation map show a large part of central Arkansas and some of the state's south and southwest received 25 percent or less rainfall than normal for the period. Most of the rest of the state has had less than half the normal amount of rain since the end of April.

Arkansas farmers are accustomed to running irrigation pumps in July and August, but the hot and dry June has forced them to irrigate early, which is an expensive proposition with diesel fuel at $3 per gallon.

Buonanno said the hot and dry spring set the conditions for the furnace-like heat the state has endured throughout June.

"When there is a lot of precipitation in the soil, a portion of the sun's energy evaporates moisture in the ground," he said. "Without that moisture, it's almost like a feedback mechanism."

Agriculture officials said the drought is hurting fruit producers along with ranchers and row crop farmers.

An extension agent in Pope County, where Russellville is the county seat, reported that a peach grower asked for guidance because his peaches were blistering on the trees.

Cattle have little or no forage, so ranchers have to buy hay, which could lead to a winter hay shortage.

Only six of Arkansas' 75 counties don't have burn bans in place — Calhoun, Desha, Drew, Little River, Miller and Sevier. The Arkansas Forestry Commission lists the entire state at high risk of wildfires.

Many counties have banned fireworks as part of their burn bans, something the Forestry Commission asked county judges to do. Fayetteville and Springdale are among the most recent to ban private fireworks.

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