Drought is rearing its ugly head across the U.S. this fall, scorching crops, fueling wildfires and forcing strict water conservation in the West, South and Northeast.

More than one-fourth of the nation is experiencing drought conditions, the highest percentage in nearly a year, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday. In all, some 128.7 million Americans are currently living in drought-stricken areas.

Drought emergencies or warnings have been declared in states from Alabama to New Jersey, while bone-dry California enters the sixth year of its extreme dry spell.