February Weather Full of Extremes, and Records
Associate State Climatologist
Oklahoma Climatological Survey
In a state accustomed to extreme weather, February was a bit startling to even the most seasoned veteran of Mother Nature’s whimsy. The roller coaster ride began on the month’s first day with a crippling blizzard and ended on its last with tornado warnings. The month was peppered with records, including the state’s all-time lowest minimum temperature and greatest 24-hour snowfall total. Those extremes occurred amidst the larger backdrop of an intensifying drought across the western two-thirds of the state.
Statewide temperature and precipitation averages look relatively boring in comparison to the singular extreme events. The statewide average precipitation total finished a tad below normal at 1.36 inches, the 55th driest February since 1895. Temperatures moderated throughout the month and ranked as the 43rd coolest on record, around 2 degrees below normal. February also marks the end of the climatological winter, which goes in the books as the 32nd coolest and 11th driest on record.
The month’s first 10 days brought three separate snowstorms and a prolonged visit with arctic air. The first storm combined heavy sleet and snow with winds of over 60 mph to produce blizzard conditions over much of the state. Tulsa set a record for its snowiest day ever with 13.2 inches on the first. Oklahoma City reported 12.1 inches to set the record for its snowiest day ever in February. Totals of 10-15 inches were common across the northeast with 1-6 inches reported in southern Oklahoma. Another 2-6 inches fell across the eastern half of the state on the fourth before a more powerful storm system moved in on the ninth. That storm dumped over 20 inches of snow in the northeast, including 27 inches in less than 24 hours at Spavinaw, breaking the state’s all-time 24-hour snowfall record. The final epitaph of those three storms was remarkable. Preliminary reports indicate approximately 40 inches of snow fell in some areas in the northeast. The 22.5 inches of snow ranks February as the snowiest of any month in Tulsa’s history and helps its seasonal total of 26.1 inches to rank as the most on record as well. Oklahoma City’s final total of 18.9 inches shatters its previous February record of 12.9 inches from 1913.
The snow cover on the 10th combined with calm winds and clear skies to drop temperatures into territory never before seen in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Mesonet site at Nowata reached 31 degrees below zero, shattering the record for lowest temperature ever recorded in the state. The previous record of 27 degrees below zero was set three times previously at different locations in Oklahoma’s first half-century of statehood, most recently at Guthrie in January 1947. Lows from 15-25 degrees below zero were reported across the northern half of the state that morning. That set the stage for yet another extreme as the temperature at Nowata rose to 79 degrees seven days later on the 17th. That 110-degree temperature swing within a week was the greatest such change within seven days in Oklahoma history. Fifteen other Mesonet sites achieved a 100-degree swing within that same period, a feat accomplished only twice previously in Oklahoma since 1890.
Warm weather was the rule for the second half of the month. Widespread record-high temperatures were record on the 17th with temperatures in the 70s and 80s statewide. Strong southerly winds brought more warmth on the 27th with the Oklahoma Mesonet stations at Grandfield and Walters both recording a high temperature of 90 degrees, the month’s highest reading.
The ongoing drought was the other big story during February. The prodigious snowfalls in the northeast helped that area somewhat, but the western half of the state continued with very dry conditions. Much of western Oklahoma received less than a half-inch of precipitation during the month. That continued the ongoing drought intensification in that part of the state, a reflection of the dry winter. The Panhandle, north central, west central and southwestern regions of the state all experienced winters that were within their top-five driest on record, dating back to 1895.
FEBRUARY BY THE NUMBERS:
Statewide average precipitation: 1.36 inches, 0.40 inches below normal
• Driest location: Hooker and Camargo, 0.03 inches
• Wettest location: Mt. Herman, 4.05 inches
Statewide average temperature: 39.6 degrees, -2.1 degrees below normal
• Highest temperature: 90 degrees, Grandfield and Walters
• Lowest temperature: -31 degrees, Nowata
• Warmest location (monthly average temperature): Durant, 45.3 degrees
• Coolest location (monthly average temperature): Kenton, 32.9 degrees