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Moisture finally comes in form of sleet, rain

Southwest Oklahoma's wish for precipitation was granted last week by Mother Nature in true monkey paw fashion.

Want a relief from the drought? You'll get it in the form of sleet and freezing rain. The joke is on Mother Nature, though  the region will take whatever precipitation it can get after four months of essentially being cut off from any sort of moisture. The state overachieved in its rainfall quota in August with more than 9 inches of rain and has been paying the price ever since. Or the effects of La Nina  a cooling of the waters in the Pacific Ocean  kicked in, gripping this area in a traditional dry pattern. But the former explanation sounds much more interesting. 

The La Nina pattern is what was responsible for kick-starting the drought in the final months of 2010 and which fueled itself for another four years. That pattern was looking eerily familiar over the last four months. The last measurable rainfall of more than 0.10 of an inch of rain was on Dec. 19 with 0.49 of an inch, and before that was all the way back on Oct. 21 with 1.01 inches. It appeared the region could slide back into the drought pattern that created so much turmoil from 2011-2014. 

The winter period from November through February is the driest four months of the year, but even in the driest month of January, the area receives more than an inch of rain on average. According to Lawton Constitution records, the Lawton Fort Sill Regional Airport has only received 0.66 of an inch of rain in three months. The dearth of rainfall plunged Southwest Oklahoma into severe and extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Those fortunes might have changed last week. While children and teachers celebrated the first inclement weather days in more than a year, others were celebrating the first measurable precipitation of more than 0.01 of an inch in two months. It fell in the form of freezing rain, sleet and snow  but it was precipitation from the heavens nonetheless. The clouds finally saw fit to open and bring forth beneficial moisture. 

Sleet, freezing rain hits

The first round of rainfall arrived Tuesday, which fluctuated between normal rainfall, freezing rain and sleet. It was followed by a full day of frozen precipitation  mainly in the form of sleet  throughout the day Wednesday. The airport showed a total of 0.29 of an inch of moisture. While it may have seemed like more, frozen precipitation doesn't contain as much moisture as regular rainfall. A third round of rain arrived Thursday morning. And while it began as freezing rain in the morning  again prompting the closure of most area schools  it turned to rain in the afternoon. On Thursday alone, the airport received 0.59 of an inch of rain. West Lawton received 0.70 of an inch. That is more rainfall in one day than the city received from November through January combined. 

The relatively bountiful rainfall continued Friday morning as another system brought an additional 0.20 of an inch, bringing the official total at the airport to 1.08 inches of rainfall for the four-day period. At this point in the month, Lawton had received a total of 1.14 inches for February. That's still below average, but is the most rainfall since Oct. 21, when Lawton received 1.01 inches

The the heavens opened up once more early Saturday morning and dumped another 0.30 of an inch on Lawton. That brought the one-week total to about 1.30 inches.

Some parts of Southwest Oklahoma were less fortunate than Lawton, while other parts were much more fortunate. Towns west of Lawton didn't see the bountiful rains Thursday and Friday. Tipton received the most rainfall for the week with 0.67 of an inch with Altus right behind at 0.52 of an inch. But towns like Hobart and Hollis were left high and slightly drier with 0.28 of an inch and 0.13 of an inch, respectively. Even Medicine Park, just a 20-minute drive from Lawton, received only 0.31 of an inch of rain for the five-day period. 

The Lawton Constitution

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