The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

February 28, 2013

Snowstorms bring misery, benefits

ENID, Okla. — February’s snowstorms brought misery to a lot of people, as electric suppliers continue to bring power back to people.

One benefit of the heavy snows, though, is its effect on the ongoing drought.

Gary McManus, associate state climatologist for Oklahoma Climatological Survey, said preliminary data from Oklahoma Mesonet, statewide average precipitation for February was 3.03 inches, 1.27 inches above normal.

That would rank the month as the 13th wettest February since records began in 1895, although melting snow in the northwest could push that mark higher.

Radar estimates indicate 2-6 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation fell across the state in February, McManus said.

February was the wettest month in Oklahoma since April 2012, which had a statewide average of 3.81 inches.

The precipitation pushed Garfield County and the rest of northwest Oklahoma out of exceptional drought — the worst category — and into extreme drought, the second-worst category, according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

It was the first time since Aug. 7, 2012 — a string of 29 straight weeks — that all of Garfield County has not been listed in exceptional drought.

For the 30-day period from Jan. 29 through Wednesday, north central Oklahoma, which includes Garfield County, received an average of 3.48 inches of precipitation, making it the second-wettest February since 1921, according to Oklahoma Climatological Survey. That’s an average of 2.21 inches above normal for the period.

For the year, northwest Oklahoma has received an average of 4.06 inches of precipitation, making it the seventh-wettest period since 1921, according to Oklahoma Climatological Survey. The average is 1.95 inches above normal.

“A statewide average deficit of more than 12 inches still exists since the beginning of last May, the beginning point of this second round of drought that has persisted since October 2010,” McManus said.

The only parts of the state currently listed in exceptional drought are the Panhandle and parts of southwest Oklahoma.

The rest of the state is split between extreme and severe drought.

The month began with 92 percent of the state depicted in at least extreme drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor, and 40 percent considered to be in exceptional drought.

The report released Thursday shows only 12 percent of the state in exceptional drought.

The amount in at least extreme drought dropped to 62 percent.

The state had not seen a lower percentage of exceptional drought since the end of July 2012, when the level was at 5 percent.

Chances of long-lasting drought relief, though, don’t appear to be strong.

According to the latest U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook from National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, drought is expected to persist or intensify for nearly the entire state through May 31.

The storm system that hit the state Sunday was the month’s most powerful. Severe thunderstorms, hail, freezing rain and snow pounded the state Sunday through Tuesday, McManus said. Winds more than 50 mph whipped the snow into drifts as high as 10 feet.

“The snow totals were extreme, and in some cases, possibly record-breaking,” McManus said.

Preliminary February snowfall total of 42.5 inches for Arnett in Ellis County would break the state’s all-time snowfall record for any month if the total is verified.

That mark currently stands at 39.5 inches in Buffalo, set in February 1971. Alva recorded a preliminary total of 35.6 inches for February.

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