In years of covering Oklahoma’s wheat industry, I learned that after a hard freeze this time of year, it’s always wait and see for wheat farmers. Below, state climatologist Gary McManus gives his view:
By Gary McManus, state climatologist, Oklahoma Climatological Survey:
“How much damage, and where? That remains to be seen. I’d be shocked if all the wheat that has passed the jointing phase made it out unscathed. And that’s not to say it will be a total loss, but with numbers like these, it’s gonna be a close one.
“Those are not pretty maps, especially the below-28 version where you can see Blackwell up in Kay County got down to 22 degrees for a low, but was also below 28 degrees for 7 hours. The Panhandle had similar numbers, as expected, but even Altus as far down as the Red River boundary with Texas matched Blackwell’s numbers. The wheat down in the southwest, or what was left of it, was incredibly drought stressed, so that is definitely not good news. In central Oklahoma, Kingfisher and Marshall reached 22 degrees for a low and spent 8 hours at or below 28 degrees. From the below-24 degrees map, you can see Kingfisher and Hooker spent 4 hours below at or below 24 degrees.
“For the sake of the Panhandle residents, who spent an extra day behind the cold front, I produced the same maps except starting Saturday night. They’re pretty similar for down-state, as they call us out that way, but the hours below are much more extensive. As many as 28 hours spent below freezing out in Cimarron County, and 23 hours below 28 degrees.
“In a word … yikes! As noted by several experts already, it will take days to determine the true extent of any damage done by the freezing temperatures.
“The good news is there is a rain that is going to occur quick on the heels of this freeze event, with another storm system moving in on Thursday. Another storm looks zoned in for Easter Sunday as well. Maybe a quarter- to half-inch is forecast for western Oklahoma right now. Let’s hope that multiplies between now and then.
“This cold is record-breaking, as you can see from the Mesonet minimum temperature map vs. the all-time record lows from the historical COOP network.
“Oklahoma City broke its historical record low for today with a minimum temp of 27, besting the old record of 30 degrees set way back on this date in 1928. No doubt many other locales across the state will report record-breaking lows as their data is released.
“Looks like we can enjoy a nice warm-up today, and some more reasonable-yet-not- seasonable lows tomorrow morning. Looks like there could be another freeze in the northwest Friday morning, however, but nothing like last night.
“As we’ve said before, a freeze this late is not uncommon, but it’s well past the average date of last freeze (based on the 1981-2010 data) for much of southern Oklahoma. And that means at or below 32 degrees. The 22-degree readings might be pushing the envelope just a bit. And we’re still at least in the range of the latest last freeze (again, 1981-2010 data) for most of the state. That date gets into late May for the Panhandle.
“We’ve had enough, right? Time to switch from those maps to these maps!”