HOUSTON (CBS Houston/AP) — Ongoing drought conditions have affected almost every aspect of Texan life over the course of the past few months. But now, with rains hitting the region, hope of resolution springs eternal.

February showers could bring March flowers in the form of crops.

“Recent rains have helped the meteorological drought a little,” Gary McManus, associate state climatologist, Oklahoma Climatological Survey, told the Western Farm Press. “[B]ut more rain to replenish reservoirs, rivers and streams, ponds and ground water – the hydrological drought conditions – is greatly needed, and that will take some time.”

He maintains optimism regarding the 2012 growing season all the same.

“If we can continue to get some rain in spring and especially in the summer, I have hope for a fair crop year,” he said. “Because of the long drought I think it may be drier than we would like, but working in our favor is that we should escape the extreme heat we experienced last year, which served to dry things out even more.”

And for an agriculture-heavy state such as Texas, who leads the nation in cattle, cotton and rice production, the well-being of crops and livestock are of incredible importance.

“We got nice rains in the Rio Grande Valley, about 4 to 5 inches, which were sorely, sorely needed, ” said Travis Miller, associate department head of Texas A&M University’s Department of Crop Soil and Crop Sciences, to Produce News Daily. “One of our agronomists here was just doing some soil profile work, and there is as much as 5 inches of plant-available water in the top 4 feet of the soil, so that’s good news.”

He added, “We’re very much encouraged there’s going to be moisture to plant. Everybody was real bleak about getting the crop in, but I think there’s going to be some crops made on this moisture.”

Clara Tuma, spokesperson for the Lower Colorado River Authority, agreed that the situation is starting to improve now thanks to recent rains, but that a long road to recovery still lies ahead.

“We’re still in a serious, serious drought,” she noted to CBS Houston. “But it’s coming up now. It’s a little better than it was.”

In a sign of the present times, the LCRA made the decision to cut off access to depleted water reservoir supplies for downstream farmers at the beginning of the month.

“This is the first time in history that downstream farmers will not receive all the water they need from LCRA,” general manager Becky Motal said in the release published on its website. “This was a difficult decision by LCRA and the stakeholders, but one that was made with the best interest of the entire basin in mind. This current drought is one of the most severe on record, and the responses to the drought need to be on the same level.”

The release added that Lakes Buchanan and Travis are only 42 percent full, even with recent rains factored into the equation.

In Texas, drought has affected multiple areas of commerce for years, with the situation reaching critical levels in 2011.

Recent reports from Drought Reporter indicate the widespread effects of the drought, which has reportedly curbed livestock entered into livestock and rodeo shows, avian migratory patterns and tree life throughout the state.

U.S. Drought Monitor additionally reported the near-critical levels of drought in Texas, with significant regions coded as “exceptional” – the most severe categorization USDM offers.

Parts of Texas have grown drier as a lack of substantial rains and windy conditions have led to less moisture in the soil, though no drought at all exists in about 6 percent of Texas.

Statewide, 20.6 percent was in exceptional drought, up from 14.7 percent last week. But rain was forecast for much of the state in the coming days.

Recent rains helped ease the Dallas-Fort Worth area and other parts of Texas out of the drought. Last year was the state’s driest on record.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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