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The worst place to live in Oklahoma is...

Apologies to readers who live in Craig and Major counties. This is not a blog post you're likely to enjoy.

Those counties are the worst places to live in Oklahoma, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

In a 1999 study, the agency compiled data on so-called natural amenities, or features that they determined made certain areas more livable than others, in every county in the continental United States. In general, hilly or mountainous areas scored better than flat places, and areas near bodies of water fared better than more arid regions. Counties also got points for warm winters, mild summers, low humidity and sunny days.

Although they're at opposite ends of the state, both Craig and Major counties lost points for summer heat, a lack of interesting topography and a lack of water. Although the Craig County is near Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, only a narrow corner of the lake extends into the county. Major County is in northwest Oklahoma, where, as a rule, water is hard to come by.

In general, Oklahoma came out in the middle of the pack — not as high on the list as coastal California, with its year-round temperate weather, but better than several in North Dakota and northern Minnesota, with their winters that make the ice planet of Hoth look balmy by comparison. Only Atoka, Sequoyah, Marshall and Cherokee counties scored slightly above the national average. All four counties are in the eastern Oklahoma hills, surrounded by trees, lakes and streams.

Notably, the report doesn't include certain man-made amenities, such as a giant McDonald's over an Interstate, that might have given Craig County a boost.

Although the natural amenities index is a relatively obscure data set, it gained attention last year after Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham wrote a blog post that noted, correctly, that Red Lake County, Minn., came in dead last in the ranking. The post prompted what Ingraham called "intense and exceedingly polite backlash" from Minnesotans. Earlier this month, Ingraham wrote a follow-up post, this time announcing he was moving to Red Lake County.

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Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›