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Oklahoma April showers could help drought without too much flash flood risk

Stoplights and tail lights visible through a rain-streaked windshield
Ave Calvar Martinez

This week’s rain has made way for budding plants and budding questions about drought and flash flooding.

Long term drought can harden dirt, making it less absorbent and more prone to flash flooding. That’s what happened in 2013, when central Oklahoma saw its wettest spring on record after years of harsh drought.

But JJ Gourley, a hydrometeorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says we’re getting the right kind of rain to avoid a flashback to those flash floods.

This is really the way we want to receive the rainfall, is kind of steady gradually and over a long period of time,” Gourley said.

Cities might be a little more prone to flooding than places with lots of springtime greenery. Concrete surfaces just aren’t as good at absorbing rainfall as soil and plants.

Oklahoma City’s Twitter account warns drivers to be extra wary at night, when fast-developing floods are harder to spot.

“This is our rainy season,” Gourley said. “So we really need days and days and days of rainfall to really break into this drought and get us back into normal conditions.”

According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, the entire northwestern part of the state is still in moderate to exceptional drought.

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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