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Recent rains leave Oklahoma with its lowest drought in over a year

A small, blue lake seen from the top of a nearby mountain. In the foreground, big rocks down the side of the mountain. Beyond the lake are grassy hills with a few trees.
Graycen Wheeler
Elmer Thomas Lake in Southwestern Oklahoma, pictured in September 2022.

After most of the state received days of heavy rainfall, Oklahoma’s drought report looks refreshing. Only a quarter of the state remains in moderate to exceptional drought, although another third is still classified as “abnormally dry.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor calculates the severity of drought on a scale from 0 to 500, where 0 would indicate a drought-free state and 500 would mean the entire state is under the most severe category of drought.

Last October, the current drought in Oklahoma hit its peak at 412 on that drought severity index. But this week, the state dropped below 100 on that scale for the first time in over a year.

That’s likely thanks to recent rains — the past month has been wetter than normal for this time of year across most of the state, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet.

Still, about half a million Oklahomans remain in a drought. The most severe drought is in Northern and Southwestern Oklahoma.

The U.S. Drought Monitor releases a new report every Thursday.

 A map by Richard Tinker CPC/NOAA/NWS/N CEP from droughtmonitor.unl.edu. July 11, 2023 (Released Thursday, Jul. 13, 2023). It shows much of central Oklahoma and the Panhandle out of drought. Extreme and exceptional drought persists in the Central-Northern part of the state (Osage, Kay and Grant Counties in particular). The southwestern corner of the state (Tillmon, Jackson, Harmon, Greer and Kiowa counties in particular) are still in severe to extreme drought.
 A map from the Oklahoma Mesonet shows 10-day rainfall accumulation. A broad line from the eastern panhandle down to the southeastern corner of Oklahoma received rainfall from 5-9 inches. Most of the rest of the state received 1-4 inches.
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Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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