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Nation

Drought affects areas hit by hurricanes

| Friday, April 21, 2006

NEW ORLEANS - Mother Nature has outdone herself with this cruel joke: Southern Louisiana, much of which was underwater not so long ago, is in the throes of a severe to extreme drought.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita accounted for most of the rain the region has seen in more than a year, weather experts say. Southeastern Louisiana is on pace for its driest January-though-April ever.

According to the Lincoln, Neb.-based National Drought Mitigation Center, southern Louisiana is under conditions of severe or extreme drought -- with the extreme conditions closer to the coast.

State climatologist Jay Grymes said he believes the region may already be, or soon will be, under extreme conditions if there is no heavy rain.

The culprit is La Nina, an area of cool water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that has pushed the jet stream and the typical west-to-east storm pattern north of southern Louisiana. It has also disrupted normal storm formation in the Gulf of Mexico.

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