Worst Ever: California’s drought crisis hits record level

(Photo: NBC News file)

The newest U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that more than half of the state is under an “exceptional drought” level.

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(Source: NBCNews.com)

Water shortages ahead for most states as drought lingers

(Photo: Tony Gutierrez  /  AP)

The worst drought in more than half a century baked more than two thirds of the continental United States this summer and its harsh effects continue to plague the parched cities and towns of the Great Plains.

Ask the 94,000 people of San Angelo, Texas, who are running out of water. Fast.

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'Bacon shortage' is a fat load of bull

(Photo: Jonathan Hayward / AP)

Don’t worry, no one is coming for your BLT.

Even though headlines for the past couple of days screamed, “Bacon shortage!” (including one of our own) and social media blew up with jokes about the impending “porkocalypse,” it’s all a lot of oinking over nothing.

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Americans tell their story of #Drought2012

(Photo: Sarah Coffey / NBC News)

The United States is currently in the throes of the worst drought in more than 50 years. Special coverage begins Wednesday across the networks of #NBCNews.

See some of the images and stories we have begun collecting from viewers and readers showing how the drought is affecting them. 

Read the complete story and submit your own images.

Consumer prices may ease soon despite drought-driven spike

(Photo: AFP)

Though severe drought conditions have raised the cost of food this summer, consumers may have seen the worst of the price impact at the grocery store.

Higher food prices helped lift the closely watched Producer Price Index by 0.3 percent in July, the fastest pace in five months. At the same time retail sales rose 0.8 percent, the first increase in four months and well ahead of expectations, signaling that the sluggish economy may be picking up momentum.

Firefighter killed as wildfires rage across the West, destroying dozens of homes

(Photo: KING TV)

Wildfires raged in several Western states on Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes and threatening hundreds more. In Idaho, one firefighter was killed by a falling tree.

A fire in central Washington grew nearly tenfold overnight and destroyed more than 60 homes, NBC affiliate KING of Seattle reported.

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NBC News Special Coverage: #Drought2012

(Photo: Sarah Coffey / NBC News)

The US is currently in the throes of the worst drought in more than 50 years. Special coverage begins Wednesday across the networks of NBC News. Show us how you’ve been affected by sharing photos on Instagram or Tumblr with the tag #Drought2012. 

White House offers drought relief, feels heat to waive ethanol mandate

(Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)

President Barack Obama announced emergency measures Monday to ease the impact of the worst drought in half a century, but stopped short of waiving the government’s requirement that a large portion of the now-shriveled corn crop be diverted to make ethanol.

Obama announced that the Department of Agriculture will buy up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish to help support farmers suffering from the drought. The food purchases will go toward “food nutrition assistance” programs, like food banks. 

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Scott Olson / Getty Images Scott Olson / Getty Images Nati Harnik / AP Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA

US cuts crop forecast as drought ravages Corn Belt

(Photos top: Scott Olson / Getty Images; Photos bottom: Nati Harnik / AP; Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA)

Federal forecasters are predicting record prices for corn and soybeans, raising fears of a new world food crisis as the worst U.S. drought in half a century continues to punish key farm states.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday said production of U.S. corn and soybeans is expected to be down 17 percent from its forecast last month of nearly 13 billion bushels, and 13 percent lower than last year. It was the second month in a row when the USDA has cut its production estimate.

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Dozens of homes destroyed in Oklahoma wildfires

(Photo: Sarah Phipps / AP)

Updated at 5:55 p.m ET: At least 121 structures, many of them homes, have been destroyed by wildfires in Oklahoma, officials said Saturday as temperatures topped 100 degrees for a 19th straight day.

New evacuations were under way Saturday as well: Included were the entire towns of Glencoe, population of around 600, and Mannford, population about 3,000, and surrounding areas. Thousands were on the move as a fire spread quickly in Creek County, 20 miles west of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported. 

NBC News Hashtag Collection: #DroughtWatch

Instagram users shared the effects of the worst drought in over 50 years in their area this weekend. Thank you for sharing your photos with us. Congratulations to @bek_@gabbi_m3@heyitsalwallick@stewpy@benmorgram@jmurphpix@suzynewhouse, @demelomarcelo and @acassler. We will announce a new Hashtag Collection Thursday afternoon.

NBC News Hashtag Collection: #DroughtWatch

This summer started with extremely high temperatures and the US has been hit with what forecasters are calling the most widespread drought since 1956. Share with us how the drought is affecting your area this weekend with the tag #DroughtWatch. We’ll feature some of your photos Monday on @Instagram and nbcnews.tumblr.com.

Drought hits 56 percent of continental US; ‘significant toll’ on crops

The prolonged heat across the Midwest has not only set temperature records, it is also expanding and intensifying drought conditions — and relief isn’t on the horizon for most areas, the National Weather Service reported Thursday.

Drought conditions are present in 56 percent of the continental U.S., according to the weekly Drought Monitor.

That’s the most in the 12 years that the data have been compiled, topping the previous record of 55 percent set on Aug. 26, 2003. It’s also up five percentage points from the previous week.

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Dry, hot weather causes water shortages in Pakistan

A Pakistani woman walks on a dry bank at the Rawal dam in Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday. The dam provides water to Islamabad and Rawalpindi cities, but the water level in the dams and rivers are low because of dry and hot weather causing water and energy shortage to civilians.

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