The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 13, 2012

Little fall precipitation keeping drought exceptional for this area

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — North-central Oklahoma remains in an exceptional drought, with little to no precipitation this fall to relieve dry conditions.

The National Weather Service in Norman released a report Tuesday that paints a bleak picture for water levels in the region, pointing to the possibility drought conditions and water shortages next summer could rival what was seen in 2012.

Unlike last year, when most of the state received enough rainfall to lift drought conditions, this fall has delivered very little precipitation — not nearly enough to lift the drought, or replenish groundwater needed for the spring growing season.

According to the NWS figures, Enid received 10.48 inches of rain in the October to December period last year, but only 1.09 inches during the same period this year.

Daryl Williams, a forecaster at NWS Norman, said there’s no relief expected in the foreseeable future.

“Generally in the Enid area, the exceptional drought is continuing,” Williams said. “As far as a long-term change in the pattern, there’s nothing indicating we’re going to break that.”

“There’s no significant rainfall in the forecast over the short term,” Williams said. “The one-month and three-month outlooks by the Climate Prediction Center are not pointing to any change in the pattern. The short answer is, we’re dry and we’re going to be dry.”

Williams said most of the state remains in exceptional, extreme or severe drought, with exceptional being the driest classification.

Williams said the north-central region can expect conditions through the winter and into spring to be “dry to nearly normal at best.”

“We can’t rule out any precipitation, but right now there’s nothing pointing toward improvement,” Williams said.

Gary McManus, associate state climatologist with the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said farmers throughout Oklahoma are reporting abnormally dry conditions in their fields.

“It’s of course very dry right now, and a lot of farmers are reporting that,” McManus said.

He said fall and winter normally are a good time to replenish moisture in the soil, but that replenishment has not occurred this year.

“We’re going to be a little bit behind where we would normally expect to be going into spring,” McManus said. “That’s going to make any precipitation we get in the spring that much more pressing. It will be key that we get a normal spring rainy pattern.”

Some wheat producers worry their plants may not survive that long.

Roger Don Gribble, area agronomist for the Garfield County OSU Extension Office, said wheat conditions vary through the region.

“It depends on where you stand,” he said. “There’s some really good wheat ... but most of it isn’t good at all.”

Gribble said local fields are more than 50 percent below their normal moisture levels, “and that’s causing a lot of problems.”

For some producers, the spring potential of their crop may rest on rain forecast for today.

The National Weather Service is forecasting a 60 percent chance of rain today in the Enid area — maybe just enough for local wheat growers to hang on through the winter, Gribble said.

“It’s going to boil down to whether we catch this rain coming through,” he said. “If we catch that and get a half inch or so, we’ll survive the winter and into the spring.”

If the rain doesn’t fall, Gribble said the wheat in some fields may not survive a hard freeze.

“Mother Nature’s not done with us,” Gribble said, “and if we’re not rooted well, those plants are not going to persist.”

Gribble remained cautiously optimistic rain will come, and save the young wheat plants.

“I don’t know if we’re going to throw a doom-and-gloom pitch at it yet,” he said, “but things certainly aren’t pointing toward optimal yields.”