Oklahoma Struggled With Floods, Drought Last Year

By KEN MILLER | January 5, 2016

A year that bounced from drought to flooding, back to drought and then to flooding again finished as the wettest year on record in Oklahoma.

State Climatologist Gary McManus said Saturday that 2015 ended with a statewide average of 53.88 inches of rain to break the record of 47.88 inches set in 1957. Weather records date to 1895.

The year 2015 began with 59 percent of the state in drought, increasing to 68 percent in April, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, before storms brought tornadoes, heavy rain and floods to the state, ending the drought in June. The rains caused a rock slide that shut down Interstate 35 in southern Oklahoma for seven weeks and was blamed for at least 15 deaths, while a 16th death was blamed on a tornado, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

When the spring rains ended, drought returned during the second half of the summer, peaking at 36 percent of the state before heavy rains came in November and December, including severe storms that began Dec. 26 and resulted in at least six deaths by the end of the year, emergency management officials said.

Preliminary statistics also show December was the wettest month on record for Oklahoma with an average of 5.92 inches of rain. That’s 3.86 inches above normal and breaks the record of 4.87 inches set in 1984.

A National Weather Service station at Daisy in Atoka County also set a record with the most rainfall collected during a calendar year with 89.69 inches, topping Tuskahoma’s 88.27 inches in 1990.

The year was also warmer than average, finishing with a statewide average of 61 degrees, 1.1 degrees above normal and ranking as the 17th warmest on record. The highest reading of the year was 108 degrees at Mesonet sites in Buffalo and Freedom, both in northwestern Oklahoma, while the lowest temperature was minus 6 degrees at Boise City in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

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