(Reuters) - Severe levels of dryness persisted in the nation's midsection, south and in the western half of the country, though the land area suffering from the worst of it was shrinking, according to a weekly drought report issued on Thursday.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, issued by state and federal experts, said drought areas in the "moderate to exceptional" range reached 46.13 percent, up from 44.85 percent a week ago. But the numbers reflected an increase in moderate and severe levels and a decrease in the worst levels of extreme and exceptional drought.
Rainfall over the last week helped ease drought conditions in many areas, the report said.
Nearly 99 percent of New Mexico was in severe or worse drought, though the worst levels of drought did recede over the last week. Texas also saw the worst levels of drought shrink. Roughly 71 percent of that state was reported in severe or worse drought, down from 75.22 percent a week earlier.
In the High Plains, drought was also in retreat as the land area considered to be suffering from extreme and exceptional drought shrank.
In the west, the worst two categories of drought fell, while severe drought levels rose to 59.31 percent, up from 57.10 percent a week earlier.
Link to monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)