The Norman Transcript

State/Region

February 25, 2013

Blizzard’s precipitation could ease drought conditions in NW Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — Wheat farmers were hopeful that Oklahoma’s third winter storm in the past week would help make a dent in a drought that has gripped the state since last summer.

The National Weather Service posted a blizzard warning for the northwestern corner of the state, including the Panhandle, and predicted snow could fall at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour early Monday morning. Woodward County’s emergency managers were expecting 8-12 inches and said there was an outside chance they could see 15 inches or more.

“Some models are showing extreme amounts,” said Matt Lehenbauer, the county’s emergency management director.

The snow is largely welcomed, but the wind won’t be.

“I’m not so much concerned with the snow total as the wind gusts of 25 to 30 mph, even up to 50 miles per hour. We’re expecting white-out conditions,” he said.

Up to 13 inches of snow fell around Woodward and Waynoka last week and up to 6 inches of snow were still on the ground Sunday before the new storm arrived.

Much of Oklahoma has suffered through severe drought. Rainfall totals for most locations were more than 10 inches below normal, and in west-central Oklahoma the two-year total of 51 inches was the fourth-lowest since record keeping started in 1895 — 12 years before statehood.

Joe Kelly, a wheat farmer in western Oklahoma, said the snow will be good if winds forecasted near 50 mph won’t blow it away.

“As it begins to soak in, it really, really helps,” said Kelly, who has 1,800 acres near Altus. “We’ve got moisture underneath it right now and that’s going to be a tremendous boost.”

The moisture from snow and recent rain has changed the outlook of wheat farmers.

“It’s changed from a dismal outlook to a hopefully optimistic outlook,” he said.

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