LUBBOCK (AP) – Storms that swept the eastern part of Texas on Monday did little to relieve an extreme drought that now covers more than 40 percent of the state, and wildfires continued to burn in parts of West Texas, where some ranchers haven’t seen a drop of rain since early fall.

The area considered in an extreme drought has tripled in the past month, and weather forecasters expect the drought to continue or get worse through June in most of the state. That means the danger of fire will remain extremely high, National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said.

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“This could end up being one of the more devastating droughts, agriculturally speaking and for wildfires, if we don’t start getting normal to above normal rainfall before June,” Murphy said. “The odds of seeing that are likely below normal.”

Texas hasn’t had a drier October to February period since 1967, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said. The five months that ended Feb. 28 saw only 4.8 inches of rain on average across the state. In a typical year, an average of 9.7 inches would fall.

The drought has been made worse by warmer than normal temperatures, said Travis Miller, a drought specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

On Sunday, low humidity and winds up to 55 mph fueled the spread of wildfires across West Texas, and four big ones burned more than 11,000 acres. Some of the fires continued to burn Monday, but they were nothing like the day before, Texas Forest Service spokesman Alan Craft said. Nearly 180 of Texas’ 254 counties have burn bans.

Texas is the nation’s No. 2 grower of winter wheat, and the drought has hit that crop hard. More than 60 percent of the state’s winter wheat crop was in poor to very poor condition at the end of March, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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As examples, Midland got .1 inches of rain in March, while College Station got 6 inches. Usually, those cities would get 4.6 and 19.1 inches respectively.

“Even it rains now it wouldn’t do much for it,” said Miller, the drought specialist. “It’ll be a little better. Instead of dying, it might be worth running a combine through.”

Bobby McKnight, who has a ranch in far West Texas, said he’s doing OK right now because he still has hay from last summer to feed his cattle. But if no new rain comes, feed could be a problem as the year goes on.

“It’s pretty tough,” said McKnight, 50. “The only thing that makes this bearable it we got a good June and July. We made some grass.”

Monday’s thunderstorms did cut power in a number of areas. Oncor Electric Delivery reported nearly 50,000 customers were without power, mostly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Dallas-based utility says the rest of the outages were mainly in East Texas and South Texas. By midnight Monday, crews had restored power to all but 6,300 customers, all but 342 being in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and another 272 in East Texas.

San Marcos Electric Utility reported about 2,000 customers lost power after winds blew down a tree that took a feeder line to a substation with it. The city about 30 miles south of Austin released a statement saying most of the power was restored by late Monday morning.

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