Despite recent rains, drought remains in much of Oklahoma

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows 53.45 percent of the state still is in moderate to exceptional drought.
by Bryan Painter Modified: June 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm •  Published: June 7, 2013

Flooding in areas including the Oklahoma City metro have led some to ask, “Is the drought over?”

Ask that of Mark Gregory, a longtime Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service agronomy specialist for southwest Oklahoma, and things get complicated.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows 46.55 percent of Oklahoma is out of a drought, roughly from central Oklahoma through much of the eastern half of the state. You'd have to go back nearly a year to find a time when more of the state was drought-free. On June 26, 2012, 51.97 percent of the state was not in a drought category.

However, Thursday's report also showed that the worst two categories — extreme drought and exceptional drought — generally have remained unchanged. That includes much of western Oklahoma and the entire Panhandle.

The reports released on Thursday reflect conditions as of the previous Tuesday.

On May 21, 26.73 percent of the state was in extreme to exceptional drought and Thursday's report shows 26.36 percent still in those categories.

That May 21 report also had 10.60 percent in exceptional drought and the newest report has 11.34 percent in that worst of the categories.

It is those dry parts of the state that Gregory oversees for the extension service. His area spans 20 counties in south, central and southwest Oklahoma.

In the last 30 days, the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network station in east Oklahoma City had recorded 16.47 inches of rain. Meanwhile, the Mesonet site in the community of Tipton in southwest Oklahoma had recorded only 1.29 inches.

So Gregory's seen significant, deadly flooding in portions of his area and little to no rain in others. And for him as well as for other Oklahomans, it's far more than a business issue.

“I've seen the destruction and loss of life caused by the storms in areas including central Oklahoma, with people wishing it would quit raining,” Gregory said of the severe weather disasters in recent weeks. “And, I've seen the polar opposite in areas like southwestern Oklahoma where people would like to see at least a little rain, except during wheat harvest.”

The changes

The U.S. Drought Monitor categories progress from none to abnormally dry to the drought categories of moderate, severe, extreme and finally exceptional. As recently as the start of April, the entire state fell within the abnormally dry to exceptional range.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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