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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Enter the Sandman - Drought Continues

It has been a wet year thus far in the mid-continent where Triple E is headquartered, but what does that mean on the heels of a 3-year drought?  Not what you may have heard in the throes of a recent severe storm event!

If you are not from the tornado belt of the United States this might be unfamiliar to you, so let me set the stage...a few weeks ago Triple E was watching the local weather channel because a cold front was colliding with a warm front to produce a line of nasty thunderstorms.  In the early evening hours 6 inches of rain fell in Lawton, OK over the course of about 4 hours and tornadoes touched down.

On these special nights Triple E is reminded of Metallica's lyrics for Enter the Sandman,  'Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight.'  That is what you must do: keep one eye on the local weather channel and be prepared to run to the tornado shelter at any moment.  Somewhere in between catching a few zzzs and being serenaded by the tornado siren, Triple E heard the weatherman declare that this storm was a 'drought buster.'  Wait, WHAT?
Triple E Agent Assignment:
Investigate the drought status and clarify any misconceptions about the health of our long-term water budget...
What is the real story?

If you live in the United States, particularly west of the Mississippi River, then you are probably well aware that wet and dry cycles come with the territory.  It seems to be a recurring theme each year regardless of where you are pitching your tent.  Today, most of the western US is experiencing moderate or greater drought intensity of a long-term nature.

 Drought Status

In the last month, Triple E was twice interviewed with the topic being effects of recent precipitation on drought status.  The first interview and article written before the aforementioned severe storm was appropriately titled 'An underground movement: Conservation ... and months of normal rainfall .. the best solution to area water woes' thanks to James Neal and the Enid News.  Following the severe storm event that brought over 2 inches of precipitation to most parts of central Oklahoma, another call came in.  Before answering another round of questions, Triple E updated his precipitation trend data but came to the same conclusion 'Despite recent precipitation, Oklahoma remains in state of drought.'  Thanks to Arianna Pickard at OU Daily for the article which is excerpted below.

Periodic droughts can be expected in Oklahoma because of uneven spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall.  The collective last 3 years, 2010 to 2012, represent Oklahoma’s third driest period since precipitation first started being recorded in 1895.  The two other driest periods in Oklahoma took place in the 1950s and from 1909 to 1912.

The average annual amount of precipitation in Oklahoma is 34 inches, and between May 1, 2012 and April 30, 2013, we were almost 10 inches behind.  It takes the same amount of time to get out of a drought condition as it does to get into one.  We would need a two- to three-year period of higher-than-average precipitation to balance out the previous two to three dry years.  Despite recent rainfall, Oklahoma is still well below average annual precipitation levels, and it will take more than a few days of rain to pull the state out of this drought.

Triple E would much prefer the Sandman from northern European folklore that sprinkles sand into the eyes of children at night to bring on dreams and sleep.  Then we could dream that every rainfall event replenishes our water resources - and supply exceeds demand.  Unfortunately we don't get what we wish for and a different type of Sandman is always poised to take over.  Conservation and the 3Ps (Proper Prior Planning) must be used to prevent water crises.

Sweet Dreams,
Triple E.

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