GRANDFIELD — Last year, the southwest Oklahoma town of Grandfield had 101 days of triple-digit high temperatures.
Wednesday, the town was dealt a reminder of the brutal heat of 2011, as Grandfield was among five southwest Oklahoma spots with official triple-digit high temperatures, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.
Altus and Erick reached 105 degrees, which tied for the second-highest temperature recorded in Oklahoma during April, dating to 1893. Mangum has the record, with 106 degrees on April 12, 1972.
Terral Tatum, a 45-year-old, second-generation farmer who lives in Grandfield, said that while on-and-off rain starting last October brought some relief from drought conditions, it didn't wash away the effects of it, which possibly will linger for years.
The extreme heat definitely took its toll, Tatum said.
“Physically and mentally, it wore you down,” Tatum said. “It's a physical breakdown due to the heat and the dry weather and everything, but then there's just a little bit of a mental thing there, too.
“When this is your profession and you don't raise a crop, it beats you down.”
The summer of 2011 was the hottest in terms of statewide average for any state since records began in 1895, with a statewide average of 86.9 degrees.
Road to recovery?
Despite Wednesday's heat surge in the southwest part of the state, triple-digit temperatures in the month of April are rare in Oklahoma, said Gary McManus, of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.
Grandfield's first triple-digit high temperature in 2011 was 101 degrees on April 18. The last 100-degree day at Grandfield in 2011 was Sept. 13, when they reached 108 degrees. Grandfield returned to triple digits with a high of 103 degrees Wednesday.
Tatum said he's heard experts in agriculture say it may be a while before pastures get back to where they were before the drought, and that's with proper management. While some cattle producers sold their herds during the drought, others culled, or reduced, their herd size.
“Everything looks really good right now because we've had a lot of rain,” Tatum said.
“Our winter grasses are green, lush, cattle have done good. I mean, everything looks real good, but just in the last week — and we're by no means dry again — but just in the last week the winter grasses are starting to give it up. It's time. They've run their course. It's time for them to give it up. These old pastures are starting to kind of brown a little bit.
“Now we're going to get to where we really see what our pastures look like.”
Last year, Tatum had only two ponds that did not go completely dry. Now, about half his ponds are completely full.
In Tillman County, where Tatum lives, conditions include abnormally dry, moderate, severe and even extreme drought, according to last week's U.S. Drought Monitor report. Tatum said even in his immediate area, there is not much subsoil moisture.
The wheat is doing well, he said, but for those harvesting for grain in Tatum's area, the combines may not enter the fields for about three weeks, which is still somewhat earlier than normal.
So, Tatum is treating it like a baseball no-hitter in the eighth inning — not discussing it, for fear of jinxing the good fortune of the wheat crop so far.
“It looks so good I don't want to talk about it,” he said.
The summer forecast for Oklahoma from the Climate Prediction Center is still undecided, McManus said. Oklahoma's summer temperatures are generally strongly correlated with precipitation, so that will be one of the deciding factors. The problem is that summertime rainfall is very difficult to predict in the state, even in the short term.
“Last year's heat is extremely unlikely due to the drought relief that we've received so far in 2012,” McManus said.
That doesn't mean the state will escape high temperatures throughout the summer. And the heat of midweek also doesn't mean Oklahoma is finished with severe springtime weather.
Still ahead is May, which is on the average the most active tornado month of the year in the state, McManus said.