Oklahoma Removed from Exceptional Drought Category for First Time Since 2012Thu, 14 May 2015 17:03:00 CDT
Spring rains have washed away the drought across much of Oklahoma. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report has shown Oklahoma has made big improvement in recent weeks. For the first time since July 17, 2012, none of the state was in exceptional drought (D4). That's the highest level of drought classification from the National Drought Mitigation Center based in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report has nearly 13 percent of the state rated abnormally dry, about 23 percent in moderate drought, almost 21 percent in severe drought and almost four percent in extreme drought. This is the first week in almost three years that none of the state received the exceptional drought level classification (D4). But even with this improvement, over 47 percent of the state continues to receive a drought rating of moderate to extreme drought. An estimated 731-thousand Oklahomans continue to affected by the ongoing drought.
April and May rains have eroded the drought across much of the state. In looking at the Drought Monitor map from April 21, the extreme (D3) to exceptional drought (D4) level in Oklahoma has gone from 37 percent to just four percent this week. Oklahoma Climatological Survey state climatologist Gary McManus said thatís about as dramatic of an improvement that he has seen in one week for the Drought Monitor with severe to exceptional drought (D2 - D4) going from 46 percent to 25 percent. Thatís a reduction of 21 percent. He said that matches the reduction made in November 2011.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report has the effects of the drought lessening especially across the southwestern part of the state. A week ago, the Drought Monitor had the region in extreme (D3) to exceptional drought (D4). This week the region has been downgraded to moderate to severe drought. Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle and Grant, Kay and Noble counties in north central remain to be the two hardest hit areas by the drought with the extreme drought (D3) classification.
While the recent rain has provided relief, there is a lot of uncertainty about whether this wetter than normal trend will continue. McManus said he is hopeful things will be different this time and Oklahoma will see lasting drought relief. On a positive note, he said relief is occurring during the wet season that runs from April through mid-June. He is encouraged by western Oklahoma getting some relief. McManus said the El Nino weather pattern continues to strengthen and it looks promising it will to strengthen even more into next fall and winter.
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