Start of spring brings hope of rains to counter drought

Of the 41 months since the beginning of October 2010, only four have finished with above-normal moisture at the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network’s Altus site.
by Bryan Painter Modified: March 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: March 19, 2014

Jane Beach was born to a southwestern Oklahoma farm couple during the historic drought of the 1930s.

Beach married a wheat, cotton and alfalfa farmer as the horrific drought of the 1950s was about to begin.

But the 78-year-old who lives near Elmer in Jackson County, has a biblical method of describing the current drought.

“The saying is, that when the floods came in Noah’s time and it rained 40 days and 40 nights, we got two-tenths of an inch here,” Beach said. “That’s the story of southwest Oklahoma.”

To support that, son T.J. Beach, the fourth generation of the Beach family to farm in the area, said last weekend that Burkburnett, Texas, located about an hour away received nearly 2 inches of rain.

How much did you get?

“Two-tenths,” said T.J., 48.

Spring begins Thursday, and the Beach family, as well as many others in Oklahoma, hope this season will mark the start of much wetter weather pattern.

The closest Oklahoma Mesonet station to Elmer is just over a dozen miles away at Altus. Since Oct. 1, 2010, the rainfall recorded at that Mesonet site is 51.57 inches below normal, said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

Of the 41 months since the beginning of October 2010, only four have finished with above-normal moisture, said McManus, the state climatologist.


Amid such numbers, T.J. Beach moves forward, in part, with stubbornness.

It’s why after that two-tenths of an inch and after Beach saw the wheat “perk up a little” he called an aerial sprayer to come take care of the mites. As Beach stood at his flatbed truck and watched, the yellow airplane made one of its passes over a small blue sign that reads “PRAY FOR RAIN.”

“A reason we have the mites here is because it’s dry,” he said. “If we get enough rain soon, we could make a little wheat.”

Stubbornness is why from a private well he’s pumping water for center pivot irrigation on a field of hard red winter wheat. Beach, who also farms cotton, is extremely thankful for the wells. He knows that nearby there are many farmers who have not been able to irrigate in recent years for reasons including extremely low lake levels.

He’s pretty sure that with the irrigation this wheat will come through. However, the question remains how it will be used. If the dry-land wheat, like that receiving the application for mites, makes, then he might sell the grain. If the dry-land wheat doesn’t produce, then “I’ll need it next year for seed wheat.”

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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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