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July Sees Drought Relief

 

July brought a near miraculous recovery to much of Oklahoma, which was faced with an intensifying drought headed into summer’s scorching middle stanza. Uncharacteristically wet conditions succeeded in beating the drought back to a more manageable level, however, especially across the hardest hit areas in northern and central Oklahoma. Drought covered as much as 51 percent of the state on July 7 according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That coverage was reduced nearly in half by the end of July, however, eventually encompassing a little less than 26 percent of the state. The worst remaining conditions were across southwestern and west central Oklahoma where severe-to-extreme drought dominated the Drought Monitor map. The Drought Monitor’s intensity scale slides from moderate-severe-extreme-exceptional, with exceptional being the worst classification. Some of the heaviest rains were accompanied by severe weather. Two large areas of severe storms moved from north to south across the center and eastern sections of the state on the 11th, along with damaging winds of up to 80 mph. The storms left tens of thousands without power – for several days in some cases. Another round of storms on the 30th packed winds of over 90 mph and caused extensive tree and power line damage across southern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Fittstown recorded a wind gust of 90 mph that evening.

 

In a stunning reversal of fortune following its 12th driest June on record, north central Oklahoma recorded its second wettest July with an average of 7.8 inches of rainfall, a surplus of 4.99 inches. Only 1950’s 8.59 inches ranked higher. Overall, the statewide average of 4.84 inches was 1.96 inches above normal to rank as the 16th wettest July on record. Several locations broke rainfall records for July. Enid’s 13.06 inches became their highest July total since its records began in 1894, topping 1960’s 12.97 inches. Ames and Jefferson – both with data stretching back to the 1890s – also saw records fall with 10.61 and 9.55 inches, respectively. Enid’s value for the month was bested when a volunteer observer near the small town of Hunter in Grant County reported the state’s highest total with 16.17 inches. That ranks as the 13th highest July rainfall total ever recorded in the state. Wewoka’s 18.83 in 1950 tops the list. Three Oklahoma Mesonet sites surpassed 10 inches, led by Breckinridge’s 11.96 inches. Butler brought up the rear at 1.23 inches. The January-July statewide average of 25.07 inches ranked as the 19th wettest such period on record with an average surplus of 3.16 inches.

 

The month began with searing heat, peaking on the 14th with the Mesonet’s site at Hollis hitting 113 degrees. The Mesonet’s 120 sites recorded triple-digit readings 258 times during the month, and 286 heat index values of at least 110 degrees. Stillwater topped heat index reports during July at 121 degrees on July 11. Rain and its associated cloudiness helped to cool the state down during the second half of the month. The most enjoyable weather was reserved for the month’s final week when highs dropped into the 80s and low 90s. Northeastern Oklahoma failed to escape the 70s on July’s final day. Altogether, the statewide average temperature was 82 degrees to rank as the 54th warmest July on record at half a degree above normal. The first seven months of the year were 1.4 degrees above normal at 60.9 degrees to rank as the 17th warmest January-July on record.

 

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) sees continued drought woes through August for those areas of the state currently in drought, but no further drought development is expected. Drought is expected to persist or intensify across much of the western half of the country. The temperature outlook indicates increased odds of below normal temperatures across the northeastern third of the state, but the worst drought areas across western Oklahoma are shown with “equal chances,” where odds are equal for above-, below- and near-normal temperatures. The precipitation outlook also shows all of the Southern Plains, including Oklahoma, with those same equal chances for each corresponding rainfall category.