Labor Day brings what many consider the official end of the summer season, one that has been “really odd,” according to a state climatologist, because of cooler temperatures and more rain than usual in many areas of the state.
The weather is also considered by some experts to, indirectly, have resulted in more snakebites thus far in 2013.
“Compared to the last couple of years it's been extremely unusual,” said associate state climatologist Gary McManus. “It's really odd.”
McManus noted that high temperatures topped out in the mid-80s during early July, instead of near or above 100 degrees and consistent rainfall that normally ends in June continued through mid-August, easing drought conditions in all but far southwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle.
“That rain in mid-July to mid-August really saved us from a disaster,” McManus said. “If we hadn't gotten that rainfall we'd be in a flash drought situation,” a condition in which intense drought develops quickly, much like a flash flood.
Dr. Bill Battle, medical director of the Oklahoma Poison Control Center, and entomologist Rick Grantham at Oklahoma State University both believe the milder weather has resulted in more people being bitten by snakes.
The cooler weather leads to more insects, which brings out more frogs that eat the insects, and in turn there are more snakes, which enjoy dining on frogs. The cooler weather has also brought more people to spend time outdoors.
“People are out more because it's cooler, it's wetter, it's nice outside. When people go out more they come into more intimate contact with snakes,” Grantham said. “When it's 110 degrees outside, people stay inside under the air conditioning.”
There were 142 snakebites reported between January and the first week of August, according to the poison control center's website. Last year, 126 snakebites were reported during the same time period, and there were 122 bites in 2011.
Through Labor Day, Oklahoma City has recorded less than 10 days of temperatures 100 degrees or above, compared to more than four dozen in 2011 when state and national heat records were broken across the state, and about two dozen in 2012.
Central Oklahoma on average has about 15 days of 100 degree or hotter days annually, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
McManus said the outlook for the next few weeks is for below-normal rainfall for all but the Panhandle region.
“The rainfall since Aug. 17 or Aug. 18 has pretty much shut off in Oklahoma,” McManus said. “It's not really a cause for concern. I keep reminding people that this is August and this is summer in Oklahoma, but you know fall is right around the corner.”