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For some areas of Oklahoma, severe drought is improvement

For some areas of Oklahoma, severe drought is an improvement. A quarter of Oklahoma remains in a drought compared to about half of the state last week, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday
by Bryan Painter Published: March 23, 2012

Life is tough when “severe” is an improvement.

But that's the case for some areas of Oklahoma including the community of Eldorado, whose drought situation has been upgraded from the extreme to severe drought category, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday.

The drought categories from best situation to worst are: moderate drought, severe drought, extreme drought and exceptional drought.

Overall, one-fourth of the state remains in some form of drought. That compares to last week when almost half of the state was in a drought. At the start of the year, 78.76 percent of Oklahoma was in a drought.

In central Oklahoma, rainfall for the year was 2.02 inches above average going into Thursday. Oklahoma County dropped out of the drought categories last week with a rating of abnormally dry, and in this week's report the county was in neither the dry nor drought categories.

However, some areas continue to suffer from an extreme lack of precipitation. For example, parts of Texas and Cimarron counties in the Panhandle have only had about 10 to 11 inches in the past 19 months, said Gary McManus, associate state climatologist of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

The Panhandle is still in the severe-to-exceptional drought categories.

“The rains that we received from this latest event have continued the momentum for drought relief started in October 2011,” McManus said.

“Obviously the 4 to 10 inches that fell across much of eastern Oklahoma put the final nail in the coffin for their drought impacts. Other areas of the state, such as central through portions of northwestern Oklahoma, received the final nudge they needed to end both their short- and long-term drought impacts.

“This drought can now be filed in the history books for much of the state, but those areas in far western Oklahoma and the Panhandle still need more. Long-term impacts, such as ground and surface water depletion, still require precipitation for relief.”

Reasons for hope

Although Eldorado is in a severe drought, Barney Trammell, manager of the Eldorado Co-op in Jackson County, said he is thankful for the rains the community has received.

Some of their neighbors in Jackson and Tillman counties remain in an extreme drought.

Trammell, who has worked at the co-op for 37 years, said the wheat is looking good. He added that the area has had two decent rains recently, including about 2 inches this week. Now he's just hoping and praying there isn't a late freeze or hailstorms or anything else that might damage a crop that is very much needed for many reasons. He's also praying that rains continue to come this year.

The Eldorado Co-op offers one of the shuttle train services in southwest Oklahoma. Trammell explained the Eldorado service by saying they have a 123-car shuttle train with a circle track. Trucks will bring grain into the co-op. It is loaded to the trains and shipped to places such as the Gulf Coast, East Coast or California.

He said that in 2010, the first year of the Eldorado Co-op shuttle train, they moved 8.5 million bushels of wheat. That was wheat taken in throughout the year. But with the drought, that total dropped to 1.4 million bushels last year.

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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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