Heavy rains end drought for most of state

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OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. — The summer of 2011 in Oklahoma was the hottest on record for any state, dating back to 1895. But in October, the rain began to fall. This week has been really wet and now the report is in; for most of the state, the drought is over.

If you’ve been a lifelong farmer, this recent rain is practically therapeutic.

“Well it makes me feel good,” retired farmer Leroy Straka said.

He feels joy when he sees cattle now grazing on green pastures because his farming sons have been feeling the pain of Oklahoma’s 19-month drought.

“They didn’t fertilize due to the price of fertilizer being high and the crops were burning up,” Straka said. “They just cut back on a lot of that.”

But what a difference this mild winter and this week’s rain has made.

“We are looking pretty good right now,” Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus said, who’s referring to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor Report, which came out Thursday morning.

He showed us maps from September that illustrated how nearly 70 percent of the state was mired in the worst drought category.

Thursday’s maps, however, indicate nearly 70 percent of the state is officially out of a drought.

Four to six inches of rain this week throughout the eastern half of the state provided hope for many.

“This is a chance to finally get back to a normal type of situation for agriculture, for water managers, even for the urban farmers that like to grow gardens.” McManus said.

“Our prayers have been answered,” Scott Dewald said, Executive VP of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association.

Dewald said cattle trucks were becoming bare because Oklahoma’s soil wasn’t feeding them. 

The drought caused huge hay deficits, skyrocketing the cost of feeding cattle.

Many producers went out of business while others shipped their cattle out of state.

“The bottom line is if you can’t grow grass, you can’t feed cattle,” Dewald said. “So you have to either move those cattle somewhere where they have grass or sell them to somebody else that does.”

With the help of this week’s rain, the drought report says Oklahoma is on pace to have the twelfth wettest year ever (from Oct.1 to Sept. 30), compared to the same period last year, which was the seventh driest.

McManus said there’s no reason to believe drought conditions will return anytime soon.

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