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Oklahoma's persistent drought makes life difficult in western Panhandle

While a storm front was dropping several inches of rain on the rest of Oklahoma last week, Bob Apple’s rain gauge had about half an inch of water in it. It wasn’t a drought-busting rain, he said, but it’s the most he’s seen in a while.
by Silas Allen Modified: July 20, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: July 20, 2014
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While a storm front was dropping several inches of rain on the rest of the state last week, Bob Apple’s rain gauge had about half an inch of water in it.

It wasn’t a drought-busting rain, he said, but it’s the most he’s seen in a while.

Apple and his wife, Jane, live on a ranch near Kenton, a few miles from the New Mexico and Colorado borders. Even after last week’s rain, Apple said his ponds are dry, and he’s thinking hard about selling off cattle to keep the ranch afloat.

“It’s been pretty dry,” Apple said. “We’ve just been kind of hanging on by the skin of our teeth.”

Kenton has been the driest city in Oklahoma since the beginning of the year. Since Jan. 1, the town has received just 4.12 inches of rain, less than anywhere else in the state, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.

By comparison, Altus, which also is battling a long-term drought, received about the same amount of rain on Wednesday and Thursday.

A U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday placed Kenton and much of Cimarron County in exceptional drought, the report’s most severe category. Although the drought picture throughout the state has steadily improved with late spring and early summer rains, Kenton mostly has been left out.

The Oklahoma Panhandle is in the middle of the 25th driest year on record, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. Last May, high winds swept across dry, bare ground, causing dust storms across much of the Panhandle.

Recent rains in New Mexico brought the Cimarron River’s water level up, Apple said. That helped a bit. But as dry as the area has been, the half inch of rain Apple’s ranch received last week won’t go very far, he said.

“It’s going to help some, but it’s not going to help a whole lot,” he said. “We need a really good soaker.”

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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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It’s going to help some, but it’s not going to help a whole lot. We need a really good soaker.”

Bob Apple,

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