BEAVER — Driving through the Oklahoma Panhandle countryside, Stanley Barby said he sees an awful lot of one thing.
“A lot of dirt,” he said.
Barby is a cattle rancher in the Panhandle, which is in the middle of the driest spring on record. The ground has been too dry to grow much of anything but tumbleweeds, he said. In most places, the ground is entirely bare, he said.
Like most other ranchers in western Oklahoma, Barby, of Beaver, has been forced to reduce the size of his herd as the drought has progressed. That makes it difficult to stay in business, he said.
“We just need rain,” he said.
While much of the continental United States saw more rainfall than usual in April, Oklahoma was much drier than average, according to a report from the National Climatic Data Center. North-central Oklahoma saw the driest April on record, the report showed.
According to data from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, both the Panhandle and north-central Oklahoma have seen the driest spring on record. High winds swept across dry, bare ground earlier this month causing dust storms across much of the Panhandle.
Those conditions have compounded what already was a crippling drought in the western part of the state, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released last week.
All of western Oklahoma was in extreme or exceptional drought — the report’s two most severe categories. Nearly 81 percent of the state was experiencing some form of drought, according to the report. During the previous week, about 79 percent of the state was experiencing drought.
29 days without rain
That report is based on data gathered May 6, meaning it doesn’t include the most recent round of rains that swept across the state. But those rains brought little help to the Panhandle, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.
Wednesday was Beaver’s 29th consecutive day with less than 0.1 inches of rain, according to Mesonet data.
But help could be in the forecast. The National Weather Service’s Amarillo office predicts a slight chance of showers in parts of the Panhandle through the weekend. But as dry as the conditions have been in western Oklahoma, Barby said he doubts a single rain will make much of a difference.
“It’s going to take us awhile to get over this,” he said. “We just need moisture.”