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Drought gives way to wildfires in Oklahoma

March 11th, 2011

From Green Right Now Reports

Oklahoma has experienced some of its driest months ever during the opening months of 2011.

Friday those dry conditions, combined with warm spring winds, unleashed at least two dozen wildfires across the state.

Governor Mary Fallin declared all 77 counties a disaster area on Friday after fires claimed several homes and forced several evacuations. The fires continued to flare across the central and western portions of the state, but were expected to abate with nightfall.

Rainfall totals have been about 36 percent below normal for January and most of February when averaged across the state, according to government data.

Oklahoma suffers periodic droughts. The current drought began in 2010, setting parts of the state back in rainfall totals by as much as 7 inches, since last October.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the driest region is in the central portion of the state, and is at about 38 percent of normal precipitation, or 6.99 inches below normal. That’s makes the 2010-2011 route the 5th driest period since 1921.

Oklahoma’s Panhandle is in better shape, at 71 percent of normal precipitation or 1.23 inches below normal.

Climate change models predict drier weather for Southwestern states, and heavier than average rainfall in the Midwest and Northeast, a portrait of the future that seems to have been borne out in the last few years. Parts of the U.S. are experiencing annual and worsening flooding, particularly across the country’s midsection, while wildfires claim farmland and residences in drier regions.

This week floods slammed parts of the Northeast, from Pennsylvania to Connecticut. Flooding is predicted for many parts of the Upper Midwest, as well as the Northeast, as snows melt and those areas experience higher rainfall totals simultaneously, according to the National Weather Service.

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