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A Tale of Two Januarys

Published: Friday, February 1, 2019

The weather was a bit confused in Oklahoma during January. The first half of the month was on the warm and wet side of normal, while the second half was dominated by short, intense periods of dry winter’s chill. The state received an average of 1.86 inches of precipitation from January 1-12, but only 0.31 inches throughout the rest of the month – the 5th wettest and 25th driest such periods on record, respectively. The month’s biggest thrill came in the form of a winter storm on January 3, with freezing rain, sleet and snow falling across much of the state. Preliminary reports had Blanchard leading the official snowfall totals with 5.5 inches, although unofficial reports of up to 6.5 inches came in from the eastern side of Moore. Oklahoma City recorded 4.5 inches, their 18th largest single-day January snow total since records began in 1893. The final bit of excitement was the frigid weather to end the month. A large area of arctic air settled over the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains during the final week of January, breaking many longtime cold temperature records. Low temperatures in Minnesota and North Dakota approached minus 60 degrees, with similar wind chills across a larger range. Oklahoma received the extreme southwestern edge of that air mass – a glancing blow. Wind chills dropped below zero in a few spots, and single digits over a larger area.


According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total was 2.17 inches, 0.61 inches above normal to rank as the 23rd wettest January since records began in 1895. Northeastern Oklahoma was unusually wet at 2.15 inches above normal, the seventh wettest January for that region. All Mesonet sites in the western quarter saw less than an inch of liquid precipitation, while areas east of Interstate 35 received 2-4 inches. A few Mesonet sites in the far northeast recorded more than 5 inches. Totals ranged from 5.41 inches at Tahlequah to 0.32 inches at Hooker. Far southwestern Oklahoma had deficits of nearly a half-inch, about 50 percent of normal for January. The first two months of climatological winter, which runs from December-February, ended with a statewide average of 5.71 inches, 2.11 inches above normal and the 11th wettest December-January on record. Burns Flat led the state in snowfall for the season through January with 8 inches, and Erick, Forgan and Shattuck had each reported more than 7 inches. The official observing site at Oklahoma City had recorded 5.5 inches.


The January statewide average temperature was 38 degrees, 0.3 degrees above normal to rank as the 52nd warmest on record. Temperatures ranged from 78 degrees at Slapout on January 6 to minus 2 degrees at Eva on the second. The first two days of 2019 were quite frigid in the Panhandle. Eva’s wind chill on the first and second of the month was minus 14 and minus 17 degrees, respectively. Boise City and Kenton had wind chills of minus 10 degrees. The first two months of winter finished with a statewide average of 39.2 degrees, 0.9 degrees above normal to rank as the 43rd warmest such period on record.


Oklahoma managed to make it three consecutive weeks with no drought or abnormally dry conditions depicted on the U.S. Drought Monitor map, from January 8-29. The month’s final map had about 1 percent of the state in abnormally dry conditions. The area was centered on Harmon County in the far southwest where those moisture deficits continued to accumulate. The February outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) showed slightly increased odds of below normal temperatures across the northwestern two-thirds of the state, and above normal precipitation for all but the far western Panhandle. The odds were a bit higher across eastern Oklahoma. CPC’s Monthly Drought Outlook does not see drought development anywhere in the state through the end of February.