By GARY McMANUS
Mired in significant drought for the better part of the last five years, western Oklahomans have been begging for moisture.
Mother Nature finally granted their wish and provided abundant rainfall during April, and in some cases, a little too much. The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Cheyenne recorded a whopping 13.2 inches of rain for the month, their wettest April on record and the second wettest month ever.
Only June 1996 was wetter with 15.4 inches. Now all that moisture in such a short time came with some problems. The Washita River crested well above flood stage on occasion, washing out roads and bridges.
Much of Oklahoma saw at least 4-6 inches of rainfall. The exceptions were in the western Panhandle and parts of south central and northeastern Oklahoma. According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average rain total was 4.8 inches, 1.6 inches and the 17th wettest April since records began in 1895.
West central Oklahoma enjoyed its second wettest April on record with an average total of 7.6 inches, 5.2 inches above normal. Only the northeast saw a deficit at 0.5 inches below normal. Kenton recorded 1.1 inches for the month’s lowest total. The year-to-date statewide average of 9.4 inches is now near normal with a deficit of 0.3 inches for the January-April period. The northeast remained with a year-to-date deficit of nearly 4 inches while west central Oklahoma had a surplus of 3.3 inches.
The statewide average temperature fell on the warm side at 60.5 degrees, 1.2 degrees above normal to rank April as the 40th warmest on record. Hollis recorded the highest temperature of the month with 96 degrees on the seventh.
The lowest temperature of 23 was recorded at both Buffalo and Medford on the fourth. The January-April statewide average temperature of 46.9 degrees was 0.5 degrees below normal.
At least four tornadoes touched down during April according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. That total could go up as more possible twisters are investigated.
Three of the confirmed tornadoes struck in far west central Oklahoma while the other traveled 12.3 miles from near Vinita to Bernice, injuring one person when it blew two tractor trailers over on I-40. That tornado was rated as an EF-1. Many other instances of severe winds and large hail were reported from storms across the state during the wet month.
The bountiful moisture provided significant drought relief for much of the state, and that is reflected on the U.S. Drought Monitor maps. The report from April 7 listed 40 percent of the state in extreme-to-exceptional drought, much of that across the western half of Oklahoma.
The month’s final map on the 30th saw that amount reduced to 24 percent. More impressively, the amount of the state with no drought of perceived dry conditions increased from 32 percent to 41 percent, mostly across the eastern half of the state.
The Drought Monitor’s intensity scale slides from moderate-severe-extreme-exceptional, with exceptional being the worst classification. The reservoirs across western Oklahoma saw great benefits from the rains, as did stock ponds and streams. Reservoirs that had shown alarming drops recently rose a foot or more, including Canton, Altus-Lugert, Tom Steed and Foss. Waurika Lake, the city of Duncan’s water supply, remained 19 feet below normal storage. Regardless of the gains, most of those lakes remain well below their normal capacity.