A powerful thunderstorm swept through the state Wednesday night and Thursday morning, twisting out a tornado, causing storm damage in a southwest Oklahoma community and soaking parts of the Oklahoma City area with more than two inches of rain.
In the southwest Oklahoma community of Gracemont, high winds tore part of the roof off a bank building, Caddo County Emergency Manager Larry McDuffey said. Winds and hail also damaged windows and left trees lying in the road, McDuffey said.
A tornado passed through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported. No damage was reported.
In Oklahoma City, the storm knocked down utility poles, causing power outages. Oklahoma Mesonet weather network sites in western Oklahoma City and Spencer recorded more than 2.5 inches of rain before the storm moved east, dumping more than 3 inches of rain on Hugo and Antlers.
The storm brought rain to some drought-stricken areas of southwestern Oklahoma. Mesonet sites in Grandfield and Fort Cobb measured more than an inch of rain Wednesday night.
Wildfire risk reduced
Although it likely wasn’t enough to put a dent in the drought that has gripped western Oklahoma since 2011, the storm could provide some short-term relief in certain areas, said state climatologist Gary McManus. Rain brought enough moisture to cause grasses in some areas to green up, which helps reduce the risk of wildfire, McManus said.
But much of western Oklahoma is still dealing with rainfall deficits of 30 to 40 inches during the past four years, McManus said, so a single rainstorm is unlikely to change the overall drought picture.
Drought conditions worsened across Oklahoma over the past week, according to a report from the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday. The report is based on data collected Tuesday, so it doesn’t take Thursday morning’s showers into account.
According to the report, nearly 49 percent of Oklahoma is in extreme or exceptional drought, up from 39 percent last week. About 80 percent of the state is experiencing some form of drought, according to the report.
Worse, areas in northwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle that are in the deepest drought received no rain at all. The situation is particularly dire in the Panhandle, where sand has taken over fields and most dryland wheat crops have already died, McManus said.
“All they’ve had is blowing dust,” McManus said.