GRANDFIELD, Oklahoma — Recent rains are bringing slight relief, and some hope, to those in drought-stricken southwestern Oklahoma.
"We're a long way from being out of a drought, but things are looking better," farmer and rancher Terral Tatum near Grandfield told The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/1qqR2sj ) after three inches of rain in the past 30 days was enough for his cotton crop to germinate and put enough water in his ponds to support his cattle through the summer.
"It is better," he said. "Not great, but it is better."
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report shows about 48 percent of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought — the report's two most severe categories — down from 61 percent on May 20. Several rounds of rain that began with a storm system in the state May 21 brought moisture to areas of Oklahoma that are in deepest drought — especially southwestern Oklahoma.
"We're definitely in better shape than we were before May 21," Oklahoma state climatologist Gary McManus said.
Tatum is in his fourth year of trying to raise cattle and keep his crops alive in drought conditions. In early May, he was worried there wouldn't be enough water in his ponds to get his cattle through the summer. On Friday, Tatum said the rain filled some of his ponds enough to allow him to maintain his herd.
Oklahoma is entering Saturday's start of summer in a better situation than it had at the beginning of spring, when the drought picture across the state was beginning to look bleak, McManus said.
Spring rains have brought greener grass, he said, which also make large-scale wildfires less likely.
The state is still in worse shape than it was at the beginning of summer 2013, when only about 26 percent of the state was in extreme or exceptional drought. But rain is likely to move back in during the weekend, bringing a wet beginning to the summer, McManus said.
That rain likely will bring humidity along, he said, but a rainy summer could also help avoid the blast furnace-type heat the state has had during the past few years.
"If we get decent rains during the summer, we have a milder summer," McManus said. "It's really up to the fickle nature of, well, Mother Nature."
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com