Drought conditions smothering Oklahoma
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK & ALTHEA PETERSON World Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
7/24/12 at 7:14 AM
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Despite recent brief rainfall in some areas of northeastern Oklahoma, the entire state is dealing with drought conditions worsening deeper into the summer months.
Gary McManus, Oklahoma Climatological Survey associate state climatologist, said with 99 percent of Oklahoma classified as having a moderate drought or worse, it would take widespread rainfall for conditions to get better for farmers and everyone else.
"Indicators show soil moisture is evaporating rapidly and lake levels are dropping," McManus said.
Isolated storms, such as the one that hit parts of the Tulsa area and northeastern Oklahoma on Thursday, will provide only temporary relief from dryness and heat, McManus said.
"That was a pretty good gift," McManus said. "When you are widespread heat and sporadic rainfall, it will be overwhelmed by the heat. It eventually evaporates away."
State Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese said the drought so far hasn't reached the level of severity of last year, but summer crops, such as corn and soybeans, are struggling.
"Last year, northeastern Oklahoma did a lot better than the rest of the state," Reese said. "This year, northeastern Oklahoma is having an extremely hard time with our corn and summer crops."
Ron King, a Bixby farmer and rancher, said that his grass has stopped growing and is burned. He uses the grass to feed his cattle and said that he will likely have to sell some of his herd.
"Well, the drought has lessened my water supply to the point all my ponds are as low as I've ever seen," he said, adding that the low levels have resulted in a drop in the quality of water.
Jay Franklin, a member of the Board of Agriculture, has a farming operation in Vinita. He said that his corn crop is expected to yield less than half its average but will probably be better than last year.
"Soybeans are in the very early vegetative state," Franklin said. "We can hold on for a while for the beans, but time is kind of ticking against them. They are about half the size or a third that they should be this time of year."
However, the drought is not adversely affecting everyone statewide. The drought has not hurt business at state parks and resorts, said Deby Snodgrass, Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation executive director.
"In terms of it keeping people at home, it is not happening," Snodgrass said.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation had to fix roadways in Washington and Canadian counties that buckled due to the heat and pavement conditions, said Mills Gotcher, a spokeswoman for the agency. However, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority reported no problems as a result of the excessive heat.
Drought relief will likely not come to Oklahoma until after summer, which means waiting until mid-September for lower temperatures and hopefully, more rainfall, McManus said.
"We could be saved by a tropical system or an anomaly, but it's summer in Oklahoma," McManus said. "We can get rain in the summer in Oklahoma, but it's not something we look toward."
U.S. Drought Monitor classification scale
D0: Abnormally dry.
Area on watch for drought,
likely to raise classification
soon without rainfall.
D1: Moderate drought.
First damages to crops,
slowdown in pastures,
water shortages start.
D2: Severe drought.
Crop and pasture losses
accelerate, water shortages
and restrictions, burn
bans start. Also triggers
farm relief programs.
D3: Extreme drought.
Long- and short-term
work together for crop and
pasture damage and water
D4: Exceptional drought.
widespread losses, a once-in-
50-year drought event.
Source: Gary McManus, associate state climatologist, Oklahoma Climatological Survey
Where does Oklahoma stand now?
Abnormally dry, or D0
Moderate drought, or D1
Severe drought, or D2
Extreme drought, or D3
Exceptional drought, or D4
Source: U.S. Drought Monitor, as of July 17
Original Print Headline: Dry days
Althea Peterson 918-581-8361
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Farmer Jay Franklin walks through his field in Craig County last week. He said that his corn crop is expected to yield less than half its average but will probably be better than last year. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Farmer Jay Franklin holds a normal-sized piece of corn (left) and a smaller piece that has been more typical of this year. State Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese says summer crops such corn and soybean are struggling. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World