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Drought Monitor says much of Oklahoma slips back in drought status

by Bryan Painter Modified: September 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: September 5, 2013

The three-year anniversary of the start of Oklahoma's current drought is quickly approaching.

The last time there was no drought in Oklahoma was Oct. 26, 2010. Although persistent in some areas, it has exited and returned in others.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows 44.64 percent of the state in drought, up from 32.82 percent two weeks ago. Most of central Oklahoma is still under no drought designation, although Cleveland County is primarily considered “abnormally dry.” The bulk of the increase was in southern Oklahoma.

The last good rains across the state were back in mid-August, said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

Since Aug. 18, there aren't many rainfall totals above zero in Oklahoma, McManus said.

The statewide average from Aug. 18 to Sept. 5 is 0.07 inches, 1.8 inches below normal to rank as the driest such period since 1921, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

“And southwestern Oklahoma's average of 0.0 inches in that time period obviously is the driest on record for that area,” McManus said. “The biggest concern in looking at this new map is the spread of drought across southern Oklahoma.”

McManus said there is also some concern with the spread of “abnormally dry” conditions across the north as well.

But the southern one-third of the state is drying rapidly, “having missed on a lot of those great rains during the first half of August,” he said.

It keeps going

The continued severe-to-exceptional drought across the western third and the Panhandle translates to three straight years of drought for those folks.

And looking at August 2010 to July 2013, southwestern Oklahoma has had an area average total of 64 inches of rain, which is about 20 inches below normal for that three-year period, and ranks as the fourth driest since 1895.

“Southwestern Oklahoma continues to be the worst part of the state according to the Drought Monitor,” McManus said. “They have not had a drop of rain since August 18th. They are around 50 percent of normal going back to the beginning of August.

“Pair that with significant drought that was already in place and that spells big trouble for those folks.”

The rest of the state has seen at least two major periods of relief, October 2011 to March 2012 and February to mid-August of this year, McManus said.

More rain necessary

Mark Hodges is executive director of Plains Grains Inc./Oklahoma Genetics Inc., which tests wheat for quality, and he has many years experience in the wheat industry. Hodges said, “While most wheat producers in the state will tell you moisture conditions are better this time of year than in 2011 or 2012, they will also be quick to tell you they need another rain to get a start on this year's crop.”

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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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