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Drought, Hurricane Katrina and triple digits

by Bryan Painter Published: August 29, 2013

Gary McManus, Oklahoma Climatological Survey:

Rainfall statistics can be awfully deceiving.

For instance, check out these three periods and what they tell you.

First, there’s the rainfall since July 9, the point I like to think our summer rainy season began in earnest (and Oklahoma). There were totals since July 9 of about 120-200% of normal. Wow, everything is going great! The statewide average of 8.13″ is about 3.53″ above normal, the 4th wettest July 9-August 29 since 1921.

Only a few trouble spots showing up there, the far southwest and down in the southeast.

Now let’s check out August thus far, so August 1-29. Well, not too bad if you live across the northern half of the state (in general). Lots of trouble down south, and the statewide average looks good at 3.03″, about 0.5″ above normal, the 30th wettest August 1-29 since 1921. Still that is deceiving. The southern half-to-third of the state is not looking so great there.

Now let’s just look at when the rains went away during August, so basically August 18-29.  There are a lot of zeroes.  The statewide average amounts to a whopping 0.03″, 1.04″ below normal and the driest August 18-29 since 1921. Now that’s less significant since we’re just talking 12 days, but it definitely shows just how lucky we were to have gotten all of that rain previously this summer.

What’s all that add up to? Well, it adds up to a slowly but surely worsening U.S. Drought Monitor map.

Our drought-free eastern two-thirds has now become sorta fuzzy around the edges, with moderate drought now becoming more prevalent across the southern edges of the state, and even severe drought making its way back into Marshall, Bryan and Choctaw counties. This is more of a flash drought situation right now. The lakes down there are still doing pretty well, so no long-term impacts just yet. Those are reserved for western Oklahoma, where a few lakes are down so low you have quite a hike from the shore to the water.

At least the 7-day rainfall forecast has some green back in the state.

The outlooks from CPC for the September 5-11 time frame could be better, but at least western Oklahoma sees odds for normal precipitation (which isn’t much this time of year).

Now it is going to get hot for the next few days, and rainfall looks sparse for awhile. Reason to panic? Not at all. August, summer … you know the drill. But we really do need to be grateful for all that rain from July 9-August 17. For many in the state, it adverted another summertime flash drought disaster.

Other weather news

– In Oklahoma, the last 365 days has been the 20th wettest for the Central region of the state, but the 17th driest in the Panhandle, the 21st driest in the southeast and 22nd driest in the southwest, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

– From the National Weather Service, “On this date in weather history”…In 2005, catastrophic

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana, Mississippi and southwest Alabama.

At the time…Katrina was the fourth strongest hurricane to originate in the Atlantic…

the strongest ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico and the third strongest to strike

the United States causing an estimated $81 billion in damage, a staggering $54.5 billion
greater than

the previous record holder Hurricane Andrew in August 1992.

Katrina is the costliest Natural Disaster in United States history.

Tragically, Katrina is the third deadliest United States Hurricane on record

with a death toll of 1,836 and the deadliest since 1928.

– Grandfield has had 35 days of triple digit temperatures this summer and Altus has had 34 days, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet.

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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