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Oklahoma Drought Easing in the West, Intensifying in the East

The July 1st update of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

All the recent wet weather in western Oklahoma has put a big dent in the severity of the ongoing drought there.

But as one part of the state celebrates above-average rainfall, a state climatologist says eastern Oklahoma — which has been spared the brunt of the drought so far — is getting dryer.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

Despite the rain, many parts of the state are still struggling, state climatologist Gary McManus said. Conditions have improved in northern and western Oklahoma, where the drought has been the most severe for the past several months.

But the situation is beginning to worsen in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state, he said.

Still, there are no areas in eastern Oklahoma experiencing exceptional drought, the worst drought classification, and the east contains the only bubble of the state that remains drought-free.

And just because western Oklahoma received more than 8 inches of rain since late May, it will take a lot more than that over a longer period of time to reverse the damage done to reservoirs in that part of the state over the last four years.

Tom Steed Reservoir, which provides drinking water to Altus residents, was about 13 feet below normal Thursday afternoon. Lake Altus-Lugert, which provides irrigation water to farmers in the area, was 29.5 feet below normal.

But there’s no doubt, the recent rain has been good for western Oklahoma farmers. The Oklahoman talked to one farmer — Matt Muller — who hasn’t been able to irrigate his crops for years, and seriously considered not planting his sorghum and beans this year.

“We think it looks like the Garden of Eden,” Muller said.

…His cotton crop is about two weeks behind where he’d like it to be and he still doesn’t have water for irrigation, but the rain has Muller feeling more optimistic.

“I just have a lot more hope,” he said.

Copyright 2021 StateImpact Oklahoma. To see more, visit StateImpact Oklahoma.