Weekly report shows drought worsens in Oklahoma
Overall, 91.2 percent of Oklahoma is in severe to exceptional drought
With rapidly intensifying drought conditions, roughly half of Oklahoma is now suffering from an extreme to exceptional drought, according to a national report.
Some producers were hoping to begin replenishing their herds once their pastures improved, but this drought keeps them from doing so.”
The U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows a little more than 50 percent of the state is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions, up from about 15 percent last week.
Last week, none of the state was classified in exceptional drought, the worst category. However, Thursday's report shows nearly 3 percent of the state in exceptional drought, including most of Ellis County, northern Roger Mills County and far northwest Dewey County.
Central Oklahoma has gone from moderate to severe drought in the past week. Overall, more than 91 percent of Oklahoma is in severe to exceptional drought, up from a little more than 64 percent last week.
On a national scale, more than 38 percent of the United States is now considered to be in severe to exceptional drought, the most since the Drought Monitor effort began in 2000.
The report is produced with input from Oklahoma weather officials, including Gary McManus of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. McManus said he offers statistical information and anecdotal information he hears from throughout Oklahoma.
And what McManus is hearing is concerning, he said.
“We received reports from USDA officials in Ellis, Harper, Woodward and Roger Mills counties of ponds that have been dry for over a year, windmills no longer producing water due to diminished water tables, dead/crunchy native pastures, and cheatgrass-covered fields producing a powder keg when describing fire danger,” McManus said. “Most dryland, non-irrigated summer crops failed, if they were even planted. Shelter belts and tree rows are reported to be dropping leaves and some appear dead.
“Many counties across the state reported similar conditions of varying degrees.”
The statewide average precipitation from Oct. 1, 2010, going into Thursday is 46.91 inches. That is 19.11 inches below normal. While it appears that Oklahoma is returning to a serious drought, for some areas such as the Oklahoma Panhandle and in western Oklahoma, this drought has been in place for nearly two years.
Justin Barr, a rancher and the Ellis County Extension Service educator, said even ponds that did take on some water in the spring “have been backing up” in the last 60 to 90 days. He had one such pond in his jurisdiction that last year had cracks a foot deep. With some rainfall, there was a little water in it for awhile. But now it is back to a mud hole.
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