February rain records were shattered as a series of storm systems during the month’s final week brought snow, sleet and heavy rains to Oklahoma. The unsettled weather dumped a season’s worth of moisture over the southeastern half of the state and provided a brief brush with wintry weather. Kids across the state finally enjoyed a snow day or two as slippery travel shut down schools. The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Broken Bow led the state with an astounding 17.65 inches of rainfall, the highest total ever recorded in Oklahoma during February. At nearly 14 inches above normal, the total shattered the previous February record of 13.21 inches set by Tuskahoma in February 1945. The Mesonet sites at Idabel, Mt. Herman, and Valliant each had at least 15 inches, also besting the previous state record. At least a dozen locations saw their February rain records fall. According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, altogether the statewide average finished at 4.33 inches to rank as the second wettest February on record, 2.50 inches above normal. Those records date back to 1895.
While the southeast dealt with record wetness and flooding, the dry streak in the northwest that dated back to early October continued unabated, creating a stark contrast between the “haves” to the southeast and the “have-nots” in the northwest. The southeast corner experienced its wettest February on record with an average total of 12.82 inches, 9.45 inches above normal. In contrast, the Panhandle was more than a half-inch below normal for their eighth driest February on record. Thirty of the Mesonet’s 120 sites recorded an inch of rain or less, with six of those receiving less than a tenth of an inch. On the other side of the scale, 50 sites recorded more than 5 inches with 10 of those receiving more than 10 inches. The climatological winter (December-February) displayed similar disparate statistics, again owed largely to the final week of February. The Panhandle region suffered through its driest winter on record with an average of 0.12 inches, 1.79 inches below normal. The southeast’s average of 18.32 inches was 7.84 inches above normal and ranked as their third wettest on record. The statewide average finished at 5.78 inches, 0.33 inches above normal to rank as the 35th wettest winter on record.
February temperatures came in cooler than normal. The statewide average was 40.8 degrees, 1.3 degrees below normal and ranked as the 56th coolest February on record. Several sites shared the month’s top temperature reading of 84 degrees on Feb. 14 and 15. Camargo recorded the lowest temperature of minus 1 degree on Feb. 12. The winter finished a tad below normal at 39.1 degrees, the 56th coolest on record.
The late-month bounty dramatically improved the drought situation across much of the state. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report, which considered precipitation through Feb. 27, 66 percent of the state remains in some form of drought. That’s a reduction of 34 percent from the previous week. Nearly 44 percent of that drought is still considered “severe” or “extreme,” covering most of western Oklahoma into the Panhandle. The Drought Monitor’s intensity scale slides from moderate-severe-extreme-exceptional, with exceptional being the worst classification.
The outlooks for March from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) call for increased odds of above normal temperatures across all of Oklahoma and below normal precipitation across the western half of the state. Those odds are greatest across far western Oklahoma and the Panhandle. There are also increased odds of above normal precipitation across far southeastern Oklahoma. CPC’s Monthly Drought Outlook for March therefore depicts drought either persisting or increasing across the western half and into the far northeastern corner of the state. Drought improvement or removal is likely across the remainder of Oklahoma.