OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Recent snowfall of 5 to 6 inches in parts of western Oklahoma and lighter amounts in the remainder of the state did little to alleviate ongoing drought conditions, according to a state climatologist.
Still, any moisture is giving hope to wheat farmers as the crop emerges in advance of a harvest that typically begins in June.
"We do have some improvement, both from the rain and the snow," said David Gammill, who has about 1,300 acres of wheat planted near Grandfield in southwestern Oklahoma, one of the areas hardest hit by drought. "There was from a half inch to .9 rain in the area. It has perked the wheat up considerably in the area."
Cattlemen, however, "are still in dire need of water" for dry ponds, Gammill said.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows 87 percent of Oklahoma in extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe categories, with exceptional drought continuing in the western third of the state and across the northern tier of counties, an area making up nearly 40 percent of Oklahoma. Counties along the far eastern border were in severe drought, the drought monitor reported.
While the snow and the rain that preceded it will not end the drought, it is a good start to the year and gives hope for more late winter and spring moisture, said associate state climatologist Gary McManus.
"It certainly gets the ball rolling on getting that soil moisture replenished, when it (snow) falls it sits in one place and percolates into the ground," McManus said. "It's just not enough to end the drought."
McManus noted that the National Weather Service has forecast a 50 percent to 70 percent chance for more rain across the state for next Wednesday and Thursday.
"We start to need those reinforcing rainfalls, or snowfall, whatever it takes," McManus said.
Gammill said continuing rainfall would be just the tonic for western Oklahoma farmers and ranchers.
"It doesn't take much up heat to use up the amount of moisture we got," he said.