Southern Oklahoma lacking in moisture this spring


Wednesday, May 21st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The 2-and-a-half-month period since the beginning of March is one of the driest on record for southern Oklahoma, officials say.

The weeks since March 1st have been the 5th-driest for south-central and southeastern Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. Southwestern Oklahoma is experiencing the 10th-driest spring on record.

Thunderstorms Monday night raised rainfall levels for the region, staff climatologist Derek Arndt said.

``They really needed it. This will help us make up some ground, but we're still nearly half a foot behind,'' Arndt said.

The counties could get additional rainfall this month and next, which are usually good months for moisture, Arndt said.

Since March 1, the south central part of the state _ including Bryan, Marshall, Love, Carter, Jefferson, Stephens, Murray, Garvin, Pontotoc, Coal, Atoka and Johnston counties _ has received 6.18 inches of rain, which is 4.75 inches below normal for this time of year.

Southeastern Oklahoma received 7.42 inches, which is 5.66 inches below normal, according to climatological survey data. McClain, Choctaw, Pushmataha, Le Flore and Latimer counties are included in that zone.

In southwestern Oklahoma, which includes Greer, Kiowa, Comanche, Caddo, Harmon, Jackson, Tillman and Cotton counties, rainfall since March 1 totals 4.06 inches. That is 4.08 inches below normal.

Low precipitation in southern Oklahoma coupled with a late freeze hit that area's wheat crop hard, said Mark Hodges, executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

``The drought really has dwarfed the freeze damage,'' he said. ``They've had some really tough years back to back.''

Wheat growers received good rains for planting in the fall and had good stands until the drought started, Hodges said.

Yields probably will be spotty for the southern part of the state depending upon how much moisture different soils could hold.

Michael Jeffcoat, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service educator, said the rain was probably too late to help remaining wheat that is almost ready to harvest, but it will help summer grasses for feeding cattle.