Oklahoma's drought picture steadily improves with summer's arrival

Saturday marks the first day of summer, and much of Oklahoma is greeting the season already in persistent drought. But several rounds of spring rains have helped improve the picture.
by Silas Allen Published: June 21, 2014

— Last month, Terral Tatum was worried that the drought in western Oklahoma would put him out of the cattle business.

But after a few rounds of spring rain reached his southwest Oklahoma farm, Tatum sounded more optimistic Friday afternoon.

“We’re a long way from being out of a drought, but things are looking better,” he said.

Tatum, 47, farms and raises cattle near Grandfield, about 40 miles southwest of Lawton. Saturday marks the first day of summer, and Grandfield, like much of western and southern Oklahoma, is greeting the season already in the grip of persistent drought.

A U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday placed Grandfield in exceptional drought, the report’s most severe category. The town has received a little more than 3 inches of rain in the past 30 days, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.

That might not sound like much moisture, but it was enough for Tatum’s cotton crop to germinate, he said. Unfortunately, the same rainfall brought the weeds back as well, he said.

“It doesn’t seem like it takes a lot of rain for that,” he said.

Tatum is in his fourth year of trying to raise cattle and keep his crops alive in drought conditions. In early May, he was worried there wouldn’t be enough water in his ponds to get his cattle through the summer. Friday, Tatum said the rain filled some of his ponds enough to allow him to maintain his herd for the time being.

His crops are still struggling.

“It is better,” he said. “Not great, but it is better.”

The drought picture across the state has steadily improved over the past month, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report. According to the report, about 48 percent of the state is now experiencing extreme or exceptional drought — the report’s two most severe categories — down from 61 percent on May 20.

by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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