One-third of Oklahoma ranks in the worst drought category

More than half of Oklahoma is in a severe to exceptional drought
by Bryan Painter Published: July 1, 2011
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Someone mentioned to Terral Tatum, who farms and has cattle near Grandfield, that they hadn't seen any grasshoppers this summer.

Tatum, 44, didn't consider that a mystery at all.

“Of course not; there's nothing for them to eat,” he said.

Grandfield is an example of Oklahoma areas that have taken several weather punches. The community in southern Oklahoma has received only 5.5 inches of rain since Oct. 1 and has had 36 days of triple-digit temperatures since April, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday showed 33 percent of the state, or basically the western third of Oklahoma, is in an exceptional drought, which is the worst category. That includes Grandfield.

Overall, 56 percent of the state is in either severe, extreme or exceptional drought.

It looks like August

Tatum, who farms with his father, Arthur Tatum, 71, said they have a small herd of cattle, but this week it got even smaller as they sold a few off, with both water and feed in short supply. Some neighbors who have more cattle have been culling, or reducing, their herds for more than month, he said.

That's just one sign of the drought.

Terral Tatum said hay that should be about waist-high won't reach his boot tops. Out of 900 acres planted to cotton, only 300 acres have any that made it out of the ground. And they were only able to harvest 860 acres of the more than 1,000 acres planted to wheat, and that didn't produce much. He had friends who weren't able to harvest any.

“You look around, and it looks like the end of August,” he said. “Our yards are brown, our pastures are brown, our ponds are running out of water.

“It is a bleak picture right now. You've got to love what you're doing and figure we're at the bottom. It's got to get better; it can't get much worse. Well, I guess it could.”

Across Oklahoma

Reminders of the extreme heat and of the drought are abundant. On Thursday, Oklahoma City reached triple digits for the 11th time in June. And Oklahoma City had temperatures of 90 degrees or above every day in June.

The Oklahoma Mesonet station at Boise City in the Panhandle has recorded only 2.7 inches of rain since Oct. 1. The average high temperature at the Altus Mesonet site for June was 104.7 degrees, marking the first time a Mesonet station has had an average high of 100 degrees or greater in a month other than July or August, with records dating back to 1997.

The average daily temperature statewide in June was the second-warmest on records dating back to 1895, about 7 degrees above normal for the month.

This drought was built on the back of the strong La Nina that persisted from last fall through this spring, said Gary McManus, of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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By the numbers

Oklahoma precipitation facts

JUNE

• The statewide average precipitation total for June was 1.17 inches, which was 3.09 inches below normal.

• The month was the fourth-driest since 1895.

• The driest June on record was 1933 with 0.46 inches.

• Southwestern Oklahoma had its driest June on record with an average total of 0.23 inches, where precipitation was 4.41 inches below normal.

JANUARY-JUNE

• The Panhandle had its driest January-June on record with an average of 2.74 inches, which was

8.2 inches below normal.

• Southwestern Oklahoma had its driest January-June on record with an average of 5.97 inches, which was 10.48 inches below normal.

• Statewide, seventh-driest January-June in Oklahoma with

an average of 11.24 inches, which was 7.91 inches below normal.

• The driest was 1936 with 8.69 inches.

Source: Oklahoma Climatological Survey

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