Wintry Weather Rules February
Three impactful winter storms struck Oklahoma during February, snarling traffic on state highways, bringing down power lines, and forcing widespread closures of businesses and schools. The first storm struck Feb. 1-3 and dumped 4-6 inches of snow over a significant portion of the state. Larger totals were scattered about, with nearly a foot of snow reported in both Hooker and Seminole. That same system covered parts of southeastern Oklahoma with up to a half-inch of freezing rain, damaging trees and power infrastructure in the area. The second storm produced near blizzard conditions across far northern Oklahoma on Feb. 16-17. Another swath of 4-6 inches was observed across those counties, with a volunteer observer at Helena in Alfalfa County reporting 8 inches. Winds gusting to over 40 mph produced snow drifts in that area of more than 5 feet. The third storm dumped 1-2 inches of sleet across the southeastern half of Oklahoma on Feb. 23-24, encasing a significant portion of the state in an icy shell that would take days to melt. Thunder was heard during the sleet, signaling enhanced convective precipitation rates. Much of the state received 6-8 inches of snow for the month. Helena led all totals at 17 inches with Seminole in second at 12 inches. Severe weather was nearly nonexistent for the month, but wildfires were a consistent hazard throughout February.
According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total was 1.6 inches, 0.09 inches below normal and ranked as the 54th wettest February since records began in 1895. Totals for the month ranged from 5.29 inches at Broken Bow to a meager 0.06 inches at Camargo. Forty-one of the Mesonet’s 120 sites ended up with an inch or less for the month, while 28 sites managed at least 2 inches. Even with February’s modest moisture totals, the climatological winter—December through January—ended as the 23rd driest on record at 3.08 inches, 2.29 inches below normal. Winter totals ranged from 9.84 inches at the Mesonet site at Mt. Herman in McCurtain County to 0.18 inches at the May Ranch site in far northern Woods County.
February ranked as the 38th coolest on record with a statewide average of 38.6 degrees, 3.8 degrees below normal. There was still plenty of pleasant weather in between the bouts of winter chill. Highs often rose into the 60s and 70s in advance of each winter storm system, culminating with a high of 82 degrees at Altus, Hollis, and Tipton on the 16th and again at Mangum on the 21st. Cold weather still dominated the month, however. Kenton dropped to minus 12 degrees on the 4th, and temperatures fell below zero a total of 20 times across the Mesonet’s 120 sites during February, nearly all in the Panhandle region. The Mesonet recorded 243 wind chills of minus 5 degrees or less throughout the month, topped by Hooker’s -27 degrees on Feb. 4. Buoyed by December 2021’s remarkable warmth, the climatological winter finished 2.6 degrees above normal to rank as the 16th warmest December through February on record with a statewide average temperature of 42.1 degrees.
The February moisture provided significant drought relief across far eastern Oklahoma, but merely staved off intensification in the western half of the state. Drought coverage decreased from 88.2% at the end of January to 86.7% at the end of February according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Climate Prediction Center’s March outlooks for temperature and precipitation paint a picture of a warm month ahead for the entire state, and wet as well for eastern Oklahoma. All of Oklahoma has increased odds of above normal temperatures for March, with the eastern half of the state seeing those same increased odds for above normal precipitation as well. CPC’s March drought outlook calls for improvements across far southeastern Oklahoma, but to persist elsewhere through the month.