KGOU

Weather and Climate

Weather in Oklahoma can be extreme and dangerous. KGOU is committed to providing resources for being aware of the potential for weather events, continuous coverage when severe weather strikes, and a big-picture view of weather trends and topics.

Our partners in weather coverage are the National Weather Service for forecasts, experts at the National Weather Center, located at the campus of the University of Oklahoma, retired television weatherman and now OU's Consulting Meteorologist-in-Residence Gary England, and for severe weather outbreaks, KOCO-TV's live continuous coverage.

Auditing The Storm: Why Moore Missed Out On Mitigation Funds

Jul 21, 2014
Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Tornado Project

When federal aid started pouring into the state after last years’ storms, FEMA designated $4 million for hazard mitigation – a tool used to protect communities from future severe weather through things like storm shelters. But the communities you’d think might receive this kind of money sometimes don’t. 

US Geological Survey

A new federal earthquake map dials up the shaking hazard just a bit for about half of the United States and lowers it for nearly a quarter of the nation.

The U.S. Geologic Survey updated Thursday its national seismic hazard maps for the first time since 2008, taking into account research from the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Japanese coast and the surprise 2011 Virginia temblor.

Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

The tornadoes and storms that devastated Oklahoma and killed 34 last year triggered the release of tens of millions of dollars in federal and state aid that will keep flowing for years.

To date, the federal government has approved up to $257 million in disaster assistance of various kinds to help re build damage and help victims of the winds and flooding that struck between May 18 and June 2, 2013, and to mitigate future risks.

The state has contributed an additional $10.5 million, and private insurers are paying about $1.1 billion. Charities also have pumped in aid.

The relief aid stemming from Disaster No. 4117, as it is called by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is arriving through several channels, heading ultimately to state and local agencies, contractors, businesses and individuals.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Some Oklahoma farmers say there's "cautious optimism" that patchy rains this summer will make a dent in the drought afflicting much of the state and help save crops and cattle.

But they concede conditions could change quickly, like they did last year when Oklahoma settled back into the oppressive heat of the summer months. Crops wilted and hay shortages were prevalent across a large swath of the state.

Tim Bartram, with the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, says if periodic rains suddenly dry up, many farmers will be left with a familiar picture from last season.

Wichita Falls Fights Devastating Drought

Jul 9, 2014

Wichita Falls, Texas, is in its worst drought on record – worse than the dustbowl days of the ’50s. It started in 2010, and climatologists don’t see it letting up any time soon.

As city manager Darron Leiker explains, the city has taken a series of aggressive measures to cope.

U.S. Drought Monitor

All the recent wet weather in western Oklahoma has put a big dent in the severity of the ongoing drought there.

But as one part of the state celebrates above-average rainfall, a state climatologist says eastern Oklahoma — which has been spared the brunt of the drought so far — is getting dryer.

From The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen:

Oklahoma Mesonet

Preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet show the state averaged about 5.8 inches of rain in June - about an inch-and-a-half above normal for this time of year.

Associate State Climatologist Gary McManus says six Mesonet stations in northern Oklahoma recorded at least 9 inches of rain this month...Buffalo had the highest rainfall total at 10.4 inches.

An inch of rain fell somewhere in Oklahoma on 19 of the months 30 days, and that helped relieve some of the drought in the state as well.

J.N. Stuart / Flickr.com

An aerial survey shows good rains in parts of the five-state range of the federally threatened lesser prairie chicken have brought a 20 percent increase in the grouse's population from last year.

A release Tuesday from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies says there were 22,415 lesser prairie chickens in this year's survey, up from 18,747 last year.

The increase came in the northeast Texas Panhandle, northwestern Oklahoma and south central Kansas — areas where more rain produced better prairie habitat. The bird is also in New Mexico and Colorado.

Could Limiting Evaporation Help With Drought?

Jun 30, 2014

Most of the southwestern U.S. is in the midst of some level of drought. Parts of California, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas are all seeing extreme drought, as rainfall and winter snowpacks have been far below average.

One of the biggest factors affecting water supplies in these hot, dry places is evaporation. Reservoirs can lose as much water to evaporation as the water that’s actually pumped out of them for drinking water.

Kate Carlton Greer / Oklahoma Tornado Project

Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. Each year, the state releases roughly 8,000 people from prison, and many of them are looking for work. One organization now hires ex-offenders to help rebuild and restore tornado-struck towns. 

When Reuben Ramirez was released from prison three months ago, it was hard for him to adjust. Ramirez spent a total of seven years behind bars, so getting used to the outside world wasn’t always easy.

Joplin Works Toward Tornado Preparedness After 2011 Tornado

Jun 23, 2014
Gail Banzet-Ellis

As we pass the one-year anniversary of the devastating tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, we’re looking at lessons learned from another devastating storm, three years ago in Joplin, Missouri. 

Joplin’s EF-5 tornado damaged or destroyed more than 500 businesses, but since that time, the city has made remarkable progress getting back on its feet. Recovery has included planning for the unexpected. 

Joplin Businesses Bounce Back After 2011 Tornado

Jun 16, 2014
Gail Banzet-Ellis

When a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma in May of last year, residential neighborhoods bore the brunt of the damage. But it was a different story in Joplin, Missouri, after an EF-5 tornado damaged or destroyed more than 500 businesses back in 2011.

Three years later, more than 90% of those businesses have returned to write a new chapter in Joplin’s story. 

Cows Graze in Kay County, Okla.
fireboat895 / Flickr Creative Commons

With drought in retreat — at least for the moment — the U.S. cattle herd, which has been severely damaged by shrinking water supplies and withering grazing land in the face of rising demand, might begin to trend back up.

U.S. Drought Monitor

A new report says drought conditions are improving in Oklahoma, though more than half of the state remains in extreme or exceptional drought.

New data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 17 percent of Oklahoma is in exceptional drought — the most severe classification of drought. That's down from 21 percent a week ago.

Meet 'The Digger:' How One Texas Mom Helps Others Find Answers About Quakes

Jun 10, 2014

Drought Hammers Winter Wheat Across The Plains

Jun 10, 2014
Farmer Jim Haarberg of Imperial, Nebraska compares the heads of wheat from two different stalks to demonstrate the stunting effects of drought.
Ariana Brocious / Harvest Public Media

Much of the Midwest and the Plains have been battling drought for years. And the current winter wheat crop looks like it will be one of the worst in recent memory, stressing farmers in the heart of the Wheat Belt – from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

In Nebraska, a full quarter of the winter wheat crop is rated poor to very poor, and Nebraska farmers are doing comparatively well. More than 40 percent of the wheat acres in Colorado are poor or worse; nearly 60 percent in Kansas and Texas; and an incredible 80 percent in Oklahoma.

Kate Carlton Greer / The Oklahoma Tornado Project

For the past nine months, school shelter supporters have fought to get a $500 million dollar bond issue to fund safe room construction on a statewide ballot. Attorney General Scott Pruitt revised the original proposal, adding what Take Shelter Oklahoma called “biased” and “unfair” language.

But the advocacy group announced a new version Wednesday.

Kelly / Flickr.com

Officials say the swimming area at Grand Lake State Park in northeastern Oklahoma will remain closed through at least Friday after an unsafe level of E.coli was detected in the water.

Grand River Dam Authority spokesman Justin Alberty says more tests of the Bernice swimming area showed elevated levels of the bacteria. Alberty tells Tulsa television station KJRH that more water samples will be taken Friday.

OG&E Power Plant in Muskogee
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency on Monday announced an ambitious plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at existing coal-fired power plants across the country as part of President Barack Obama’s push to curb climate change.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt blasted the move, saying in a statement the plan “has no legal basis or the force of law.”

“It will undoubtedly lead to higher electricity rates, job losses and increased manufacturing costs as coal-fired power plants, which provide 40 percent of our baseload power, are taken offline,” Pruitt says.

But officials with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Oklahoma says keeping the current rules unchanged will be more costly because communities are already paying to deal with carbon pollution-fueled “climate disruption,” like flooding, wildfires and extreme heat.

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