The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

September 28, 2012

Rain doesn't wash away burn ban: Get the do's and don'ts

By Kevin Hassler, Associate Editor
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Northwest Oklahoma residents soon should see increased activity in wheat fields as farmers plant the next crop.

Rain received Wednesday and Thursday will allow those farmers who haven’t already planted their crop to do so, said Roger Don Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.

“There’s a lot more of northwest Oklahoma that is allowed to plant wheat,” Gribble said, because of the rain.

Some producers in the area were able to get their crop planted earlier this month, he said, but planting stopped about a week ago because of the lack of rain.

“We’re probably in the 35-40 percent established range,” Gribble said.

Starting Monday, Gribble said, producers probably will “start throwing wheat into the ground” to take advantage of the latest rain.

The rain also helped those planting canola, and Gribble said producers should finish planting that crop by the end of next week.

Once the crops are in the ground, what’s needed is timely rain and temperatures ranging from the 40s to 80, Gribble said.

“Most of the area got enough rain to get (the wheat crop) growing,” he said. “I’m asking for 21⁄2 inches of rain a month and I’ll be happy.”

The Mesonet weather-recording site at Breckinridge reported significant rain, showing 1.70 inches of rain in the previous three days through Friday, with 1.06 inches recorded Wednesday and .64 of an inch Thursday.

Other Mesonet sites in the previous three days and rainfall totals were: Freedom, 1.87 inches; Alva, 1.05; Woodward, .76; Seiling, .31; Fairview, .06; Lahoma, .55; Cherokee, .31; Medford, .13; Watonga, 1.05; Kingfisher, .75; and Marshall, .81.

For the month, the Breckinridge site has recorded 2.82 inches of rain.

Despite the rain, much of northwest Oklahoma remains in exceptional drought, the worst category reported by U.S. Drought Monitor.

The drought mapping is based on data received by 6 a.m. Tuesday, so the latest report does not reflect the rain that hit the area Wednesday and Thursday.

All of Woodward, Woods, Major, Alfalfa and Grant counties are listed in exceptional drought, while all but the far southeast corner of Garfield County is listed as exceptional.

Kingfisher County and most of Blaine County are listed in extreme drought, the next-to-worst category. The southern part of Blaine County is listed in exceptional drought.

Rain chances are expected to come to an end after today, according to National Weather Service.

There is a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms today, then no chance of precipitation through Thursday, according to NWS.

Today, NWS expects partly sunny skies with a high near 78 and light wind. Highs through Thursday are expected to be in the 80s, with lows in the 50s.

Even though the area received 1.70 inches of rain Wednesday and Thursday, Garfield County remains in a governor-declared burn ban.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday removed 22 counties from the statewide burn ban she issued earlier in the summer. Now, 33 counties remain on the ban, including Garfield, Woods and Woodward counties in northwest Oklahoma.

“The long-term forecast shows continued drought conditions through much of the state where the ban remains in effect, but the risk of wildfire has lessened in several areas, allowing us to reduce the burn ban coverage,” Fallin said. “We are hopeful that rains will continue across the state to allow further reduction of the ban.”

Gas and charcoal grilling are allowed under the ban, provided it is over a nonflammable surface and at least 5 feet from flammable vegetation. Unlawful activities under the ban include open flames, campfires, bonfires and setting fire to trash, grass, woods or other materials outdoors.

“With the cooler fall temperatures and more people enjoying time outdoors, there is a greater risk for wildfires by activities such as campfires, even in those counties where they are not banned,” said George Geissler, Oklahoma State forester.

There are exemptions to the burn ban for a number of items, such as welding and road construction.