Posted at 04:17 PM ET, 08/02/2011

Texas drought grows in severity; threatens record crop loss (Photos)

A goose feeds on the bank of a dried-up creek bed near Lake Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Tim Sharp/Reuters)

A drought that has overtaken the plains of the United States is reminding some of the 1930s, when dry land turned into a Dust Bowl. The lack of rain, the brushfires and high temperatures have set records from Lousiana to New Mexico. The hardest hit state, though, may be Texas. The Associated Press reports:

“About 70 percent of Texas rangeland and pastures are classified as in very poor condition, which means there has been complete or near complete crop failure or there’s no food for grazing livestock. The crop and livestock losses could be the worst the state has seen — perhaps twice the previous single-year record of $4.1 billion set in 2006, said David Anderson, an economist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service.”

So far, the drought has cost “the struggling U.S. economy upward of $1.5 billion and counting, largely from agricultural impacts, Capital Weather Gang’s Andrew Freedman reports.

The drought has caused oyster production to fall, despite hopes that a good harvest would make up for the oysters lost in the Gulf oil spill. It also has uncovered metal objects in a lake in East Texas that scientists believe may have come from the space shuttle Columbia.

View images of the heat-socked land:

Football players take a water break during practice at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth. Water and electricity usage is soaring, prompting the state's electricity grid manager to ask Texans to conserve energy during the hottest part of the day. (Brandon Wade/AP)

An oyster boat heads in to dock at Jeri's Seafood in Smith Point, Texas, with the morning's catch. Any hope that Texas oysters were going to make up the productivity lost in Mississippi and Louisiana due to flooding and last year's oil spill have been killed by the third-worst drought in Lone Star State history. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

A mussel shell lies on the bank of a dried-up creek bed near Lake Arlington in Arlington, Texas. Temperatures of 108 Fahrenheit (42 Celsius) were recorded in the area. (Tim Sharp/Reuters)

Police say low water levels at the lake during the drought have led to recovery of a container-like object that could be from space shuttle Columbia. The shuttle broke apart and burned in February 2003, scattering remnants over East Texas. (AP)

Footprints mark the bank of a partially dried-up pond near downtown Dallas. (Tim Sharp/Reuters)

An underweight longhorn stands in a field near Stoneham in Grimes County, Texas, in an area that was part of a 5,000-acre wildfire in June. (Jay Janner/AP)

A portion of the Cypress Creek Arm of Lake Travis is completely dry on Wednesday in Austin, Texas. (Jay Janner/AP)

A "pray for rain" sign is seen on the fence of a ranch near Hondo, Texas. It has rained less than six inches on average statewide through the end of June, according to the state climatologist. Thirteen inches fall in a normal year. (Eric Gay/AP)

Update: Thanks to JannaBird, I realized I made a small discrepancy in the text. Parts of the Columbia were found, not the Challenger. I apologize for the error. Read about the discovery here.

By  |  04:17 PM ET, 08/02/2011

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