Travis Meyer, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- It seems like Oklahoma weather is always trying to kill us! From 30 below zero to 114 degrees, what a year it's been, even for Oklahoma!
Oklahoma was frozen, flooded, blown around and baked, all ending with the worst drought in decades.
As January drew to a close, a monster winter storm closed in. The first round buried parts of the Tulsa metro in as much as 21 inches of snow.
The wind created blizzard conditions and brought the region to a stand-still. To add insult to injury, several more rounds of snow followed, bringing the official total in Tulsa to an unprecedented 26.1 inches.
Streets and highways were closed, roofs collapsed and people were stranded for weeks. Records were shattered left and right. Nowata set the state's all-time low temperature, a mind-numbing, bone-chilling 31 degrees below zero.
Spring brought some record flooding in far eastern Oklahoma along the Illinois River, but last Spring will be most remembered for the deadly tornado outbreaks.
"Dixie Alley" across the southern part of the country saw the first major outbreak, killing hundreds around Tuscaloosa, Alabama and other locations in the Deep South. That put Oklahomans on alert and May 22nd it came.
Just across the Missouri border, an EF-5 tornado roared through Joplin, cutting a destructive path through the community and killing 160 people.
Just south in Oklahoma, tornadoes damaged lakeside communities on Grand Lake. Just days later, western Oklahoma got hit hard. One of several violent tornadoes struck the communities of Piedmont, El Reno, and Guthrie, killing nine people along a 65-mile path. It was the first EF-5 tornado to hit Oklahoma in a dozen years.
Severe spring weather gave way to the hottest summer in Oklahoma history. Ten record highs were set in Tulsa, with the temperature reaching a scorching 113 degrees on August 4th. It devastated crops, pushed ranchers and cattle to the breaking point and strained city power and water supplies.
The miserably hot, dry conditions turned grass and other vegetation into kindling. Pawnee County, just west of Tulsa, was just one of many areas across the state that erupted in flames.
You can still see the effects; homes, fields and out-buildings lost in an instant to the wind-driven flames that pushed firefighting crews to the limits.
Year-to-date, 290,000 acres of Oklahoma land have been charred by wildfires. The financial toll from the fires: millions of dollars in lost homes, buildings and other property.
The fires were bad enough, but the long-term drought conditions have cost the state more than 1 billion dollars in lost crops, lost cattle and lost business at lakeside marinas.
You can still see the effects of the drought at Lake Skiatook. The lake level is about a dozen feet below normal. The story of the drought, unfortunately, will continue beyond 2011.
The long-range forecast does not look promising. The predicted return of La Nina does not bode well for drought improvement.
But maybe 2012 will bring calmer weather.