Oklahoma sees driest 4 months since Dust Bowl

COYLE — In most years, the dark clouds over western Oklahoma in the spring would be bringing rain. This year, they're more likely to be smoke from wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in the past month as the state and its farmers struggle with a severe drought.

By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS, Associated Press Writer Published: April 6, 2011

“If it doesn't do anything else, it'll make some hay,” he said.

Mike Spradling, the president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said many wheat farmers have considered just plowing under their fields and switching to another crop.

Associate state climatologist Gary McManus said conditions have actually gotten worse since crops began emerging. The plants have rapidly sucked up the limited moisture in the soil.

“Some places have already lost their wheat crop farther south and in the Panhandle,” he said. “In the driest parts of the state, the rainfall they have gotten, it's not enough to make them rest easy with their crops. It's just a bad situation.”

Paul Fruendt said he's been farming for 25 years and he's never seen such bad growing conditions. His farm in Guthrie in central Oklahoma got a little rain, but he said his crops will still probably run out of water within a few weeks.

“For us already, we're going to suffer,” said Fruendt, who invested about $100,000 in his wheat. “Probably two-thirds of our gross income has been wiped out for the next six months.”

Ranchers in western Oklahoma are worried about their land too. Monte Tucker, 36, a volunteer firefighter and cattle rancher who lives in Sweetwater near the Texas border, said the grass and brush on his property are like tinder. He saw 1,500 of his 5,000 acres burn a few years ago, and without rain, it could easily happen again this year.

“Right now, it's like gasoline,” he said of his land.

Surviving the Dust Bowl

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