The Driest Season: America's Drought

As Americans try to stay cool at beaches, lakes and rivers this summer, the country isn't getting much relief. The United States is in the midst of a widespread drought covering one-third of the country, from eastern Mississippi across Alabama to southwest Tennessee and northwest Georgia, a natural disaster that has been classified as "exceptional."

Water levels in Florida's Lake Okeechobee have met the state's record low, California is sweating through its driest year on record, and even the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., is feeling parched: The spring used to make the company's famous whiskey is threatening to dry up. Click on the map below to see how states are faring.

ALABAMA Alabama is seeing the worst of the country's drought, with about 38 percent of the state experiencing "exceptional" conditions. According to the Drought Monitor, 78 percent of Alabama's pastures are in poor or very poor condition, as are 48 percent of it peanut crop and 68 percent of its cotton crop.

CALIFORNIA 2007 is California's driest year since rainfall records were established 130 years ago. With downtown Los Angeles seeing a record low of 4 inches of rain since July 2006, residents were urged in early June to take shorter showers, reduce use of lawn sprinklers and stop throwing trash in toilets in a bid to cut water usage by 10 percent. Ongoing below-average rainfall has also made the Southern California summer fire season a year-round event, with blazes in Griffith Park and Santa Catalina Island.

FLORIDA The water levels in South Florida's Lake Okeechobee, the second-largest freshwater lake in the United States, are approximately 3 feet below average. The drought has bared parts of the lake bed, exposing human bone fragments, pottery and even boats. In tiny Wewahitchka in Florida's panhandle, the Lanier family has seen its Tupelo honey crop diminished by half. With little nectar available, the bees are reluctant to share their honey.

GEORGIA The Peach State is undergoing its most severe drought in decades, and the estimated losses to farmers due to damaged crops are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Ninety five of the state's 159 counties have been classified as suffering "extreme" drought conditions; the rest are in severe to mild drought. Water restrictions for noncommercial use are in effect across the state.

KENTUCKY
Hay production in Kentucky is off by 50 percent due to rain deficits, down 6 to 9 inches in the South and 2 to 4 inches in the West.

MARYLAND In Maryland, the worst gypsy moth outbreak in 12 years has been aggravated by dry conditions. Defoliated trees are left more vulnerable to further infection as stress from the drought compromises their ability to grow new leaves.

TENNESSEE In Lynchburg, the spring from which the Jack Daniel's Distillery gets its water is threatening to dry up. Most of the state is in extreme drought.

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