Windshield wipers were active Tuesday as Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey left Oklahoma City en route to make a presentation in Woodward regarding the drought.
McManus has made about 30 talks already this year to civic, agricultural and other groups about the drought.
“I am very encouraged by this rain,” he said. “I really think we might be seeing at least a little bit of relief that will last awhile.”
McManus said a few more rains like this, with not much time in between, could go a long way toward drought relief for central Oklahoma.
Central Oklahoma's rainfall for the last 365 days through Monday was 13.58 inches below the normal for that time period.
“We need these types of rains every couple of weeks or so,” McManus said. “We need just slow rains to replenish subsoil moisture.”
Michael Scotten with the National Weather Service, Norman Forecast Office, said a combination of things came together for these rains. He said moisture was going up and over a cold front.
“That in combination with the actual slow moving low pressure system is bringing quite a bit of Gulf moisture northward and bringing beneficial rain amounts to Oklahoma,” Scotten said.
Winter roared back into Oklahoma during February, providing significant drought relief to much of the state while dumping several inches of snow in the northwest, McManus said.
According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total for February was 3.03 inches, 1.27 inches above normal.
March ended drier than normal.
The state did see a round of springtime weather finally last weekend, complete with drifts of hail in areas and some confirmed tornado activity.
With the storms at the end of March, the statewide average rainfall total climbed to 1.5 inches for the month, which fell about 1.6 inches below normal, McManus said.
March's cooler-than-normal weather kept drought from spreading or intensifying, although drought impacts continued to be felt statewide, McManus said.
The entire state has remained in at least moderate drought since July 2012, and for many areas, the drought can be traced to October 2010.
“The spring is a race to the summer basically between what's being used by plants and what's being used in the atmosphere and then what's falling from the sky,” McManus said. “If you're in a shortage as you go into the summer, there's a good chance that shortage will magnify to a large degree.”
So precipitation during spring is crucial for drought relief.
Going into Tuesday, Kenton, in the far western Panhandle, had recorded 108 consecutive days without receiving at least a tenth of an inch of rain on any day.
“The farther north, west or even south you go, the worse things get,” McManus said. “Southwestern Oklahoma has been hugely hit over the last 2 ½ years. Along with the Oklahoma Panhandle and the far northwest, those folks haven't seen the couple of bouts of relief that other parts of the state have seen throughout this entire drought.
“It's always important to remember it might be vastly improving in your area, but there are probably fellow Oklahomans still hurting from the drought.”