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Recent rains allow some Oklahoma wheat farmers to start planting

Because of recent rains, David Harman, of El Reno, was able to start planting wheat this week. The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows 99.71 percent of Oklahoma remains in severe to exceptional drought.
by Bryan Painter Published: October 5, 2012

— The grin on David Harman's face had a lot to do with the kernels of wheat about an inch deep in the sandy loam soil.

This week, following recent rains, Harman started planting wheat on his farm in Canadian County.

While the precipitation received in Oklahoma was certainly not enough to end the drought, rainfall in portions of the state was enough for some farmers, including Harman, to plant.

The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday showed 99.71 percent of Oklahoma remains in severe to exceptional drought.

However, the percentage of the state in the worst category, exceptional drought, has come down from 42.09 percent two weeks ago to 28.21 percent this week.

“We've had such a dry summer, and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever rain again,” Harman said while sitting in the cab of his John Deere tractor.

“Fortunately, we got a good soaking rain, which is what we needed. It's a little bit later than maybe we would have liked, but not too late to get a good wheat crop in the ground.”

In Harman's area

The onset of the current drought can be traced to early May. Between May 1 and Sept. 24, El Reno received 7 inches of rainfall. That's about 12 inches below normal, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.

Since Oct. 1, 2010, El Reno is about 20 inches below normal rainfall totals. In the days since Sept. 24, El Reno has received 3.2 inches of rain.

So, what Canadian County and much of central Oklahoma have faced is, in essence, a two-year drought made up of two separate drought periods: October 2010 to October 2011, and May through September of this year, said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

McManus said an additional factor making the situation worse has been above-average heat.

“That is both the extreme heat during the summers, but also the above-normal temperatures throughout most months outside of summer,” he said.

“The heat leads to more evaporation, and it also leads to a longer growing season. Both of those factors increase the water stress on our soils and reservoirs.”

Across the state

Going by the May 1 drought starting point, almost the entire state is fairly dry, with deficits from three to six inches in parts of the Panhandle, northeastern and southern Oklahoma. Deficits are nine to 12 inches across northern Oklahoma.

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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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