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Summer 2012 included wildfires and stretches of record extreme heat

A repeat of drought compounded the issues, said Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood.
by Bryan Painter Published: August 31, 2012

/articleid/3705611/1/pictures/1813558">Photo - Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management director, speaks Wednesday at the state emergency management bunker at the Capitol. Photo By David McDaniel, The Oklahoman
Albert Ashwood, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management director, speaks Wednesday at the state emergency management bunker at the Capitol. Photo By David McDaniel, The Oklahoman

The cumulative effect of the last two weekends' rainfall events was enough to draw some of the state out of exceptional drought in the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

“Unfortunately, some areas missed out on appreciable rainfall through the last month and therefore increased in intensity from extreme to exceptional — north central and southwestern Oklahoma, particularly,” said Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

“The western two-thirds of the Panhandle have also been dry. Dry weather in the Panhandle is reaching a critical point rather quickly, as well.”

The area of Oklahoma in exceptional drought is 37 percent, down from 48 percent last week, but close to the 39 percent of two weeks ago.

The area of extreme/exceptional drought remained at 90 percent and the entire state remains in at least severe drought, McManus said.

While last summer was the warmest on record, this summer going into Thursday was the 12th warmest and that could change.

McManus said this summer included some rather mild weather for this season interrupted by two heat waves, with another stretch of hot weather heading into fall.

“It still pales in comparison to last summer's unrelenting heat, but when it was at its hottest this year, late July through early August, it was a match to any similar period last summer,” McManus said.

Looking ahead

As of Thursday, there were areas of Oklahoma with chances of moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac entering the weekend.

A little further out, the prospects for another cold front and associated rainfall are just beginning to show up on the Climate Prediction Center's 6-to-10-day and 8-to-14-day outlooks with increased odds of above normal rainfall and near normal temperatures.

“We should not forget that while this drought is in place and we're still in the warm season, hot weather can still occur,” McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey said. “The drought and all its impacts are just sitting here waiting for the right type of weather pattern to come along and bump our thermometers up once again. So as we deal with this upper-level heat dome once again, it appears summer is not done giving us a bit of misery just yet. It's probably not going to be the widespread triple-digits we would see like earlier, but still significantly above normal for this time of the year when highs are usually in the low 90s.

“And as long as the vegetation is dry, the proper weather conditions can produce that extreme fire danger as well. Until we see more rains and more green up, that will remain a concern.”

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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