By Marice Richter
FORT WORTH, Texas , Jan 7 (Reuters) - It's official: 2011 was the driest year on record in Texas, according to the National Weather Service. It was also the second-hottest ever.
That won't surprise Texans who lived through a year in which wildfires roared through the Lone Star State, cattle went thirsty and many Fourth of July fireworks shows were canceled.
The weather service said the average rainfall in Texas in 2011 was 14.89 inches. The previous record of 14.99 inches of average rainfall was set in 1917.
The average temperature in 2011 was 67.2 degrees. The warmest year on record was 1921, when the average temperature was 67.5 degrees, the weather service said.
The prolonged Texas drought is to blame for devastating agriculture and livestock losses, estimated in the billions of dollars.
The historic drought has killed as many as half a billion trees, not including those that died in wildfires that scorched some 4 million acres in 2011, the Texas Forest Service has reported.
While some parts of Texas received substantial rainfall during December, 97.83 percent of the state remained in severe drought this week, according to a Thursday report by the U.S. Drought Monitor.
In addition, 32.4 percent of Texas lingered in exceptional drought, the most extreme category, according to the Drought Monitor.
The current drought started in fall 2010. The period from October 2010 through September 2011 was the driest period ever, when average rainfall was only 11.18 inches, according to a report by the state climatologist.
The most drought-stricken areas are in southwest Texas as well as through the central and south-central regions of the state.
"We expect the drought to continue at least through the spring," said Joe Harris, a meteorologist for the weather service in Fort Worth.
"The La Nina weather pattern will continue, meaning more dry weather and above-average temperatures." (Editing by Corrie MacLaggan)