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)

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.