Experts Say Drought In Oklahoma Over

Friday, April 27th 2007, 5:41 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A drought that has lasted about two years in Oklahoma has ended thanks to increased precipitation totals in the state during the first months of 2007, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the Lincoln, Neb.-based center, said the most recent map of Oklahoma's drought situation -- prepared on Tuesday -- showed that only 5.5% of the state still is considered to be abnormally dry, compared to 100% a year ago.

According to the center, two of the state's 77 counties -- Adair, on the Arkansas border, and Choctaw, on Oklahoma's southeast border with Texas, remain abnormally dry. Parts of seven other counties -- Delaware, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Bryan, Atoka, Pushmataha and McCurtain -- in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma also are abnormally dry.

At the start of 2007, 68.7% of the state still was considered to be abnormally dry.

"For the most part, all of Oklahoma is in really good shape compared to where we were a year ago or two years ago," Fuchs said. "It's been one of the better springs we've seen in getting normal or above-normal precipitation."

According to National Weather Service figures, Oklahoma City -- located near the middle of the state -- has a normal precipitation total of 35.85 inches. In 2005, Oklahoma City received 23.6 inches, and it received 27.84 inches last year, giving the capital city a two-year deficit of more than 20 inches.

This year, the precipitation total for Oklahoma City is about 4½ inches above normal. More than 13 inches of rain have fallen in the city this year, National Weather Service meteorologist Ty Judd said.

The calendar could provide more good news, as May is considered by climatologists to be the wettest month of the year, Judd said. He said the three-month weather outlook prepared by the Climate Prediction Center calls for normal precipitation.

Oklahoma lakes and reservoirs also are starting to rise. According to an April 18 bulletin produced by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, there was a 3.7% increase in total storage -- to 97.9% -- in state reservoirs from the level recorded on March 21.

The report noted that nine reservoirs still are operating at less than full capacity, but that number dropped from 15 four weeks earlier. Five reservoirs still are below 80% of their total conservation storage, including one -- Lake Altus-Lugert, on the border of Greer and Kiowa counties in southwestern Oklahoma – at 50.6%.

"You don't see recovery on those systems until the soil profile is saturated with moisture," Fuchs said. "When you start seeing runoff and improving stream flows and water going into storage, that's a good sign there has been recovery in soil moisture in the region."

Oklahoma is "going into springtime with a good situation ... it's probably in the best shape it's been in several years."

He called the chances of slipping back into widespread drought "doubtful," saying it would take extended hot and dry conditions for that to happen.