Oklahomans experienced the gamut of their state’s annual weather hazards during October. Flooding rains, extreme heat, an arctic blast, the season’s first snow, severe thunderstorms, and a slew of tornadoes – all were present during an active weather month. A weak tornado formed near Fairfax on Oct. 7, damaging roofs and power poles. Tornadoes struck again just after daybreak on Oct. 9, forming along the leading edge of a squall line moving across central Oklahoma. Eight tornadoes touched down that day according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service, most in and around the Oklahoma City area. The twisters damaged homes and businesses, but no injuries were reported. The most significant tornado started near Tinker Air Force Base and produced significant roof damage, later flipping cars in a Midwest City parking lot. Straight-line wind damage was also reported across central and eastern Oklahoma with the line of storms. The preliminary count of at least nine confirmed tornadoes is the third highest October tally in the state since records began in 1950, behind 1998’s record total of 27 and 19 in 2001. For excitement of a different sort, the state’s first measurable snowfall of the season occurred on Oct. 14 in the western Panhandle, although a few flakes were reported as far south as Clinton in western Oklahoma. More snow was reported in the Panhandle on a cold and dreary Halloween day.
Moisture was plentiful – and at times overwhelming – for the third consecutive month. According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, October finished with a statewide average of 6.78 inches, sixth wettest since records began in 1895 with a surplus of 3.24 inches. Western and south central Oklahoma were especially wet with widespread totals of 6-12 inches. Sixty-eight of the Mesonet’s 120 sites had at least 6 inches for the month, 13 of which had more than 10 inches. Hobart led the state with 12.89 inches. It was drier than normal for some, particularly across northeastern Oklahoma. Oilton recorded the lowest total at 2.82 inches. Combined with the abundant moisture of the previous two months, the Mesonet’s August-October total jumped to 16.01 inches, 6.05 inches above normal to rank as the fifth wettest August-October on record for Oklahoma. That’s somewhat similar to last year’s 13th wettest total of 12.61 inches for the same period. The January-October average total of 36.16 inches was 4.23 inches above normal, the 17th wettest such period on record.
Mesonet stations saw heat index values of at least 95 degrees 125 times during the month’s first week, with four of those sites reaching 100 degrees. The month’s top actual air temperature of 97 degrees was reported at several sites on Oct. 3. The season’s first freeze arrived on the 14th with temperatures plunging into the 20s across northern Oklahoma. Wind chills dipped into the teens on the 14th and 15th during Oklahoma’s first bout of the season with true arctic air. Eva recorded October’s lowest temperature of 25 degrees on the 16th. The statewide average temperature fell a degree below normal at 59.9 degrees, the 30th coolest October on record. The January-October average of 63.8 degrees was 0.7 degrees above normal to rank as the 32nd warmest such period since 1895.
The wet August-October nearly eradicated drought across the state. Drought dropped from 55 percent of the state at the beginning of August to less than 2 percent at the end of October according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Far northeast Oklahoma retained the last vestiges of drought as deficits there have continued since October 2017. The November outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center indicate increased odds of below normal temperatures for all but the far western Panhandle, and above normal precipitation across the entire state. That results in a November drought outlook with complete drought removal likely in northeastern Oklahoma, and no new development across the rest of the state.