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Snow Thrives Despite Warm January

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Although January’s weather continued this winter’s general tilt towards unusually mild conditions, that failed to prevent several bouts of wintry weather from striking the state. In true Oklahoma fashion, the first bout of snow and ice was foreshadowed by severe weather, including a couple of tornadoes. Those weak twisters struck on January 10 near Prague and Park Hill according to National Weather Service reports. The Park Hill tornado was the more destructive of the two, damaging roofs, outbuildings and trees. Notably, the first two tornadoes in 2019, on the way to a record total of 149, did not come until April 17. The snow and ice that followed the severe weather was generally light, but it was enough to disrupt traffic through the 11th. Localized amounts of 2-3 inches were reported in the northeast. Light freezing rain and snow created hazardous driving conditions across northern Oklahoma on the 17th and 22nd. The most impressive winter storm struck in the northwest on the 28th, however. A heavy wet snow – bolstered by half-dollar sized flakes – fell across the northwest quarter of the state. Totals from 3-5 inches were common, with as much as 10 inches being reported from Turpin in the eastern Panhandle. Heavy winds caused blowing and drifting snow and made for `hazardous driving conditions. Despite the multitude of winter storms, most of the state lacked any significant snowfall for the season through January.

According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total was 3.48 inches, 1.92 inches above normal and ranked as the sixth wettest January since records began in 1895. Totals ranged from 4 to 8 inches across eastern Oklahoma, with the Cloudy Mesonet site leading the way at 8.08 inches. Boise City and Kenton were the only two sites failing to reach an inch of precipitation at 0.17 and 0.23 inches, respectively. Deficits of about a quarter-inch covered that area, while the rest of the state had surpluses of 1-5 inches. A very similar pattern emerged for the December-January period, with precipitation totals ranging from just under an inch in the far western Panhandle to more than 8 inches in the southeast. The December-January statewide average finished at 4.54 inches, a surplus of 0.92 inches, to rank as the 20th wettest such period on record.

The statewide average temperature was 41.9 degrees, 4.2 degrees above normal and the 14th warmest January on record. The Panhandle was an outlier at just 2.7 degrees above normal, but still warm enough to rank as the 18th warmest February for that area of the state. Above normal minimum temperatures were responsible for much of the state’s positive January temperature anomaly. Lows were 5-6 degrees above normal while highs were generally 1-3 degrees above normal. There was a slew of 70s during January, with Hugo’s 77 degrees on the 15th leading the pack. The lowest temperature recorded by the Mesonet was 5 degrees at Boise City on the 11th. The December-January statewide average of 42.5 degrees was the fifth-warmest first two months of winter on record, 4.2 degrees above normal. Remarkably, the Mesonet recorded only six single-digit temperatures at its 120 sites over that period.

The abundant moisture continued to slowly whittle away at persistent drought conditions across southwest Oklahoma and the western Panhandle. Areal coverage of drought dropped about 2% during the month – from 10% to 8%. – according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Chances for further reductions appear slim according to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC). Their February precipitation outlook indicates Increased odds of below normal precipitation across most of the state, with those odds a bit greater across north central Oklahoma. The temperature outlook shows equal chances for above-, below- and near-normal temperatures across the entire state. CPC’s February Drought Outlook expects the remaining drought to either persist or intensify through the month.