OKLAHOMA CITY — A smattering of summer showers has provided much-needed rain across much of Oklahoma, but nearly a third of the state, including major agricultural producing counties in western Oklahoma, remains locked in an extreme drought that has withered crops, dried up farm ponds and decimated cattle herds.
A wet spring and steady summer showers across a large portion of central Oklahoma has alleviated drought conditions for nearly 25 percent of the state, a major improvement from a year ago when nearly the entire state was experiencing at least moderate drought.
But more than 30 percent of Oklahoma, mostly the Panhandle and about 20 counties in western Oklahoma, are suffering from extreme or exceptional drought, according to a report this week from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“The drought that we keep talking about really started around October of 2010, and especially in the western part of the state, this has been an accumulation of missing precipitation for a long period of time,” said Oklahoma State Climatologist Renee McPherson. “It certainly can’t be something that we solve quickly without the types of heavy rainfall that we’ve seen in certain parts of the state.”
Since October, every climate division in Oklahoma has experienced less rainfall than normal, with the statewide average at about 81 percent of normal, according to statistics from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. By far the hardest hit counties are in the Panhandle (57 percent of normal rainfall), west central Oklahoma (67 percent of normal) and southwest Oklahoma (71 percent of normal).
“In the last 30 days for example, many parts of central Oklahoma ... have seen anywhere up to 5 to 6 inches of rain, but the western part of the state had spotty rain during that time. There were a few locations that had 2 to 4 inches of rain, but there are other locations that didn’t even see an inch,” McPherson said. “And they’re trying to make up for almost a foot of precipitation that they’ve been missing over the last couple of years. Until they see significantly more precipitation, they are still going to be in drought conditions.”