By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It may sound strange, but in Oklahoma, rain puts smiles on faces.
While it wasn’t quite the winter storm forecasters predicted, the past few days have brought smiles as rain poured into the Payne County, giving soil and plants much needed moisture.
“It’s really going to help things,” said Payne County cattle rancher Bill Lile.
The 1.13 inches of rain has filled his pond up halfway.
It had been dry since July. Some grass has started to grow, allowing him to provide his 16 cattle more than hay.
However, Lile is wary. Last spring, he was in a similar situation with rains falling just before summer only to be followed by an extremely hot, dry summer.
While the rains are promising, Horticulture Educator Keith Reed is also wary.
The state has been in a brutal drought for the past two and a half years. The recent rains have begun to wet the soil enough to produce runoff water but it’s still merely chipping away at the huge rain deficit the state has sustained.
Reed said while the rainfall over the past few weeks matches with a non-drought year, catching up will take far more.
Weather data from the National Weather Service shows average rainfall for the state has plummeted from 38 inches in 2010 to 27 inches in 2012. The data shows this is lower than the worst years of the 1930s drought which saw the average drop to 29 inches.
“Who knows what’s going to happen,” said Reed.
He noted that the outlook isn’t good with the National Weather Service predicting another hot, dry summer. The drought has taken its toll on ranchers and farmers like Lile. He was forced to sell half of his cattle. And the county’s flora is also hurting. Reed said thousands of trees, including some that are decades old, have died from the lack of moisture.
Reed, who fields agriculture questions from homeowners, advised residents to avoid fertilizing plants too much as without moisture this will only further stress them.
According to the National Weather Service, the next seven days will have more chances for thunderstorms and precipitation.