Precipitation in February helps in struggle with drought

The statewide average precipitation since Oct. 1, 2010 is 24.7 inches below normal, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet.
BY BRYAN PAINTER Staff Writer bpainter@opubco.com Published: March 1, 2013
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Recent rains and snowfall have dropped Oklahoma's exceptional drought, the worst of the U.S. Drought Monitor categories, to its lowest percentage since the end of July.

The report released Thursday showed 11.8 percent of the state, primarily southwestern areas and the Panhandle, continue to experience exceptional drought. That is down from 41.64 percent a week ago and the lowest since the 5.2 percent July 31.

In terms of statewide average liquid precipitation, Oklahoma made progress in February with 3.03 inches. That is the 13th-wettest February on records dating to 1895. Those are preliminary numbers. The melting snow in some areas could lead to a higher average.

The new drought report shows 61.65 percent of Oklahoma in either extreme or exceptional drought, down from 86.8 percent last week. All of the state remains in a severe to exceptional drought.

Still, the long-term deficit remains great.

The statewide average precipitation since Oct. 1, 2010, is 24.7 inches below normal, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.

“Now we need more of the same, with cool and wet weather,” said Gary McManus, Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “The cool side will keep plants from explosive growth like last March, meaning less soil moisture used earlier in the spring. The need for wet conditions is obvious ... to replenish the state's soils and reservoirs.

“Then we need it to continue into April through mid-June, which is usually when the rainy period ends for Oklahoma.”

A look at February

For the west central Oklahoma region, the preliminary average Mesonet rainfall total of 3.54 inches would rank as the second-wettest February next to 1997's 3.64 inches.

Arnett is just to the north of that Mesonet region. For February, Arnett has a preliminary snowfall total of 42.5 inches. That would break the previous single-month snowfall amount for a single location in Oklahoma of 39.5 inches in Buffalo in February 1971. McManus notes that Arnett's snow brought 5.32 inches of liquid equivalent.

A better perspective