The Woodward News

July 25, 2013

Area catching weather break this summer

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — It’s been a while since Oklahomans, especially those living in the panhandle, have been treated to summer weather this cool.

This time last year, the average summer temperatures in the this area were over 100 degrees nearly all of July, locked into the region by a high pressure heat dome, according to the National Weather Service archives.

This year, while there have been some 100-degree days, the average has been pushed down for the month of July because of some unseasonably cool days that remained in the 80s, according to Meteorologist Matthew Day of the National Weather Service in Norman.

“We have had a few unusual events this month, that is true,” Day said. “The retrograding low, where normally our weather patterns progress from west to east was upset and this time with an upper level low pressure system, the system moved from east west.”

That was caused by the high pressure building up around the northeastern portion of the United States last week, he said. That high pressure pushed the front toward this region and produced the recent odd type of cloud and thunderstorm formations sending different rain patterns over western Oklahoma and the panhandle than the last three years.

It isn’t all good news though, Day said. The Climate Prediction Center based in Maryland is calling for a hotter than normal August and September and there is no hint what could follow, Day said.

Also, despite the perception of more rain this year, some regions, specifically in the panhandle, are still down on  rainfall averages from last year by anywhere from 53 percent to 62 percent of normal from March 1 through now, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Then there is Oklahoma City.

From January this year until now, Oklahoma City has received 36.2 inches of rain compared to less than 20 inches over the same time frame in 2012, Day said.

In Woodward, about 12 inches of rain have fallen since the beginning of the year through June compared to a little more than 16 inches last year, he said.

Things are a little better for those in the Slapout region but not much, according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey Mesonet readings. From January this year through June the region has banked nearly 10 inches of rainfall compared to last year's 7 inches during the same time period.

If that leaves some area residents feeling left out of the rain cycle, consider this. According to the Mesonet, Boise City received 3.42 inches of rain since the beginning of the year through June. Last year, during the same time frame, it received 6.85 inches.

So it make sense, that the recent weather patterns, which have led to an increase in moisture, have also led to an increase in coffee shop talk among those who are excited about what the weather might be like the rest of the summer and into fall and winter.

In every region, especially agriculture regions where financial success runs parallel to the weather patterns, weather is considered good conversation.

Woodward, Laverne and Beaver are no different.

If you ask Woodward County Commissioner Randy Johnson, he’ll likely tell you he has enjoyed this summer better than the last three scorchers.

“I like the summer we have had,” he said. “I still think we are not up to the moisture we should have though and so I hope that this moisture we have had does lead to a little bit wetter winter.”

When asked if he has any fun predictions about when the region might receive its first measurable snow, he placed his chit on November 22.

“In our business, moisture is our best friend,” he said. “When it is dry, it causes a lot of road problems and you can’t haul enough water to fix them.”

Gate area agriculture professional Sammy Burch agrees with Johnson but believes the trend will continue through the fall and winter.

Burch remembers this June, waiting for the weather to warm up and dry up in western Texas so she and the harvest crew she works with could begin to cut wheat.

“It is just such a weird year,” she said. “We had that very late freeze and a very cool start of summer. I was wearing a sweater and we didn’t think it was ever going to warm up.”

Burch is placing her bets on Halloween night for the first measurable snowfall.

Oil and gas production expert Evelyn Dixon couldn’t be happier about the recent summer weather. The 35-year oilfield veteran has spent more than her fair share of 110 degree days standing next to a hot pumping unit engine.

“I have so enjoyed the fact that it is not as hot,” she said. “It is markedly different, not just a little. There have actually been some enjoyable days,”

Dixon believes that seasons mirror themselves. So for Dixon, the extreme heat and drought that was the norm all last summer had her planning ahead for a marked blizzard season to follow. Turns out, she planned well.  Woodward County and other counties in the region are still trying to cope with costs associated with the blizzard that hit In February.

“ So this year, since we had a spring, I believe we will have a fall and since we had a mild summer, I believe we will have a mild winter with more snowfall but not extreme cold and wind because, as I said, they mirror each other.”

Ever the optimist, Dixon is planning for the first measurable snow during the last week of October.

“I’m moving my house then, it’s gonna snow like crazy,” she said, laughing.

A little more on the circumspect side of the coin - you might even call him a bit of a doubter - Follett, Texas resident and cattle industry worker Bud Wallis isn’t quite convinced of a large change yet. But he’s open to one.

“Well, I don’t think has been so hot as it has been in the past in Follett, but it has been hot,” he said. It just hasn’t been a 110 degrees like last year and so many days in a row. But the cattle are still panting and it is still a hot summer.

Wallis said he is slightly enthused about the nine inches of rain he said has fallen on Follett since June. “That will help for the fall and the crops and the winter maybe,” he said. “That snow last February threw a curve to everyone. Maybe the winter will have more cool days in it too and maybe some snow that doesn’t blow sideways.

Wallis anticipates that the first measureable snow will fall somewhere around October 15. He likes this date mostly, he said, because recently he entered a drawing at a local firearms shop and won a John Deere knife.

“I just feel kinda faithful to that date.”