OKLAHOMANS hoping break in heat lasts longer than a few days

Thursday, August 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A weak cold front scheduled to move through Oklahoma on Friday has the potential to relieve city water systems, temper a scorching summer and save the state's crops from drought.

``It's going to cool us off, but we're not going to be chilly by any stretch of the imagination,'' said Kevin Brown, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Norman.

The front should drop temperatures into the upper 80s in northern sections of Oklahoma and the low to mid-90s elsewhere, an improvement over the upper 90s and low 100s of the past several weeks.

Oklahoma farming officials say it has to rain during the next two weeks if the state's crops are going to make it.

``It's a critical time for farmers,'' said Steve Kouplen, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau. ``We're all pretty worried. It's getting to be drought conditions.''

Although meteorologists say Oklahoma would have to go without rain for several more weeks to reach true drought conditions, farmers are concerned.

``It's pretty much in Mother Nature's hands,'' Kouplen said. ``Trucking in water for the crops just isn't feasible, so we rely a lot on prayer.

``Farmers are worried about their crops and about having enough hay to feed their livestock.''

City officials throughout the state are hoping for some rain as they cope with increased water usage and rationing.

Tulsa has seen just 16.54 inches of rain this year, 7.9 inches below normal. Oklahoma City is 4 to 5 inches below normal, similar to much of the rest of the state. Far northeastern and northwestern Oklahoma are faring the best, only about 1 inch below normal, Brown said.

He also said the state has been hotter than normal. Oklahoma City has had 20 days when temperatures reached 100 or higher _ twice as many as average. Parts of the state are under a fire danger alert.

In the state's urban areas, city officials are trying to deal with equipment failures while water usage is up.

In Okmulgee, the city's pump that takes water from the source to the treatment plant has failed, forcing mandatory rationing until further notice, said Michael Dean of the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The town of Watts in Adair County is having voluntary rationing because of water line leakage, he said. And Perry may be close to mandatory rationing should the hot dry weather continue.

Wagoner Mayor James Jennings has asked residents to do some voluntary rationing by not using water until the early morning hours. The water plant is running at 99 percent capacity, he said.