The worsening drought prompted a gloomy prediction yesterday from Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes as officials in neighboring Virginia sought federal disaster relief for three more counties, bringing the number of localities seeking aid there to 23.

At a news conference, Hughes said the driest summer in 100 years has probably cost Maryland farmers almost $100 million and losses could mount if the drought continues.

A county-by-county survey released by the governor estimated the economic loss to farmers at $89.4 million in 17 counties. No figures were available yet for Kent and Talbot counties on the Eastern Shore, and Hughes said the loss probably will be close to the $100 million mark when those reports are in.

The figures will be used by the state to support its request for federal disaster relief for farmers.

In Virginia, boards of supervisors in James City, Rappahannock and Augusta counties asked Gov. Gerald Baliles to review their petitions and send the request to the federal level, said Greg Hicks, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Counties west of the Blue Ridge Mountains continued to suffer the worst of the damage and the state's corn crop remained the most visible symbol of the drought.