Drought, fire danger, floods, severe storms, multiple bouts with freezing rain, and even a good old fashioned Plains snowstorm – Oklahoma’s weather had a little bit of everything during February. Frequent incursions of arctic air kept Oklahomans guessing what to wear from day to day, although choices from the spring wardrobe were rare. A round of severe storms marched across the state Feb. 6-7 ahead of an arctic front. Hail, damaging winds and flash flooding were reported with the storms, followed by a batch of freezing rain behind the front. Up to a quarter-inch of ice accumulation was noted in parts of northeastern Oklahoma. A strong storm system met up with an arctic air mass over Oklahoma on the 19th and dropped a swath of sleet and snow from southwest through north central Oklahoma. Reports of 3-5 inches were common with Burlington leading the way at 7.5 inches. Those outside of that band received a bit of freezing rain and sleet. The wintry fun didn’t end there, however. Another arctic intrusion led to an icy glaze over much of the state on the 27th, closing schools and making travel a challenge. Numerous wrecks were reported across western and central Oklahoma, including at least one fatality accident in Blaine County. Oklahoma City police stopped responding to non-injury accidents due to the sheer number of collisions, and area emergency rooms soon filled with slip-and-fall accident victims.
Much of the state finished with a moisture deficit, but that was countered by wet conditions across eastern Oklahoma. According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total was 1.58 inches, 0.25 inches below normal to rank as the 53rd wettest February on record. The southwest experienced its 32nd driest February, while southeast and east central Oklahoma had their 30th and 34th wettest, respectively. Idabel led the state at 6.3 inches. Boise City had the lowest total with 0.14 inches. Climatological winter – December through February – finished with a statewide average of 7.48 inches, 2.03 inches above normal to rank as the ninth wettest such period on record. The only significant deficits during the winter season occurred in the far southwest and northwest, where totals fell to 40-70 percent of normal. The northeast’s winter season was their sixth wettest on record.
The northwestern two-thirds of Oklahoma experienced below normal temperatures during February while the southeast was warmer than normal. Averaged as a whole, the state’s average temperature for the month was 39.7 degrees, 2.4 degrees below normal to rank as the 44th coolest February on record. The Panhandle was 4.7 degrees below normal, their 23rd coolest February on record, but the southeast was 1.7 degrees above normal to rank with their 36th warmest. The Mesonet site at Hollis recorded the highest temperature of the month at 83 degrees back on Feb. 3. None of the 120 Mesonet sites recorded a temperature of at least 70 degrees from Feb. 15 through the end of the month. The lowest temperature of zero degrees occurred at Beaver and Eva on Feb. 8. Winter finished just a tad above normal with a statewide average of 39.6 degrees, the 51st warmest on record. The southeast was 1.8 degrees above normal to rank as their 28th warmest winter.
Oklahoma was free of drought for nine consecutive weeks according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a streak that ended on February’s final day. Only 1 percent of the state was considered in drought, contained in far southwestern Oklahoma. Another 10 percent across far western Oklahoma and the Panhandle was labeled as “Abnormally Dry,” a drought precursor. The Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) March outlooks see increased odds of below normal temperatures for the entire state, as well as above normal precipitation for all but the southwest quarter. The March drought outlook indicates no further drought development in the state, but persistence of the small area of drought in the far southwest.