“The topsoils in that part of the state are powder-dry,” McManus said, “and a lot of farmers will have worked their ground and dusted their wheat in, planting it in those powdery soils and hoping for a rain.
The Oklahoma Mesonet weather network station at Blackwell, including Thursday, has gone 34 consecutive days with less than a quarter of an inch of rain on any one day.
“Unfortunately, that rain just hasn't arrived up there. They've missed out on the last few rain events, and the drought continues to intensify. The wheat is having a tough time emerging due to the drought and so there is little vegetation to hold the dust down. Just like during the dust storms of the 1930s, the topsoil sits waiting for a strong wind and takes flight once that wind arrives.”
“This is just as bad as a tornado as far as flying debris; you know you can be injured by flying debris just like you can during a tornado with the winds being this high,” Ponca City emergency manager Paula Cain said.
A red flag fire warning was in place for parts of northern Oklahoma on Thursday, as was a blowing dust advisory.
The National Weather Service forecast for the area said winds would subside to 20 mph or lower overnight but that gusts as high as 28 mph could continue.
Calm winds were expected by Friday night.
Steve Austin, a Kay County commissioner, said visibility was terrible.
“It looked like a huge fog was over the city of Ponca City,” he said. “We've had dust storms before, but I don't remember anything of this magnitude in years.”