Extreme drought conditions set in across western Oklahoma
Western Comanche County, along with most of Caddo County and all of Tillman County, have been upgraded from the third level, severe drought, category to the fourth level, extreme drought, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.
Other area counties placed in the extreme drought category were Greer, Harmon, Jackson and Kiowa counties.
Classified in the severe drought category are eastern Comanche and Caddo counties, along with all of Cotton, Grady, Jefferson and Stephens counties.
The extreme drought category is also designated for counties in the western third of Oklahoma, including most of the Panhandle. Several counties in south central Oklahoma are also designated as extreme drought. Most other areas of the state are in the severe drought category except some counties in northeastern and southeastern Oklahoma, which are in the second level, moderate drought, category. No Oklahoma counties were designated in the lowest or first-level category of abnormally dry or the fifth-level category of exceptional drought as of Thursday.
Michael Merritt, Comanche County emergency management director, said the county has been lucky with relatively few large grass and range fires despite the dry conditions.
"It is getting extremely dry. We still have growth from vegetation that grew from last fall's rains that is still standing up," he said. "In high grasses, high winds can easily fuel a fire by anything is combustible such as a tossed cigarette."
Merritt said the lack of winter precipitation, such as ice and snow, has added to the current drought conditions.