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Heavy rains wipe away drought, but bring floods in Oklahoma

In the course of a weekend, parts of Oklahoma have gone from drought to floods.

A storm system passed through the state over the weekend, dumping several inches of rain on parts of the state and wiping away most of the drought that was strengthening across northwestern Oklahoma.

In Carter County, emergency manager Paul Tucker said streams and tributaries in the county had overtopped their banks, causing damage to a few homes and overwhelming roads. On Sunday night, officials briefly evacuated an area near Healdton, a small city about 24 miles west of Ardmore, Tucker said.

The area along the Washita River in eastern Carter County is under a flood warning until Wednesday afternoon. About 4:30 p.m. Monday, the river was near flood stage.

Forecasters predicted the river would climb above major flood stage Monday evening and early Tuesday.

If the river does flood, it could create problems for residents along the river, Tucker said. But until it does, it's difficult to predict which areas are most vulnerable.

“It just depends on where it comes from right now,” he said.

National Weather Service forecasters also predict major flooding along the East Cache and Deep Red creeks in Cotton County and along the Red River near Gainesville, Texas.

Rainfall totals were greatest across southern Oklahoma, along the Red River. In Tipton, a small community about 14 miles southeast of Altus, 6.4 inches of rain have fallen over the past week, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network.

Some areas in northwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle reported as much as 4 to 6 inches of rain over the past week, according to Mesonet records.

Oklahoma state climatologist Gary McManus said that rainfall will go a long way toward repairing damage done by a drought that was creeping across northwestern Oklahoma. All of northwestern Oklahoma was in moderate to severe drought last week, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

“This was, in essence, a drought-ender for much of that area that was in drought,” McManus said.

McManus said the storm system brought a slow, soaking rainfall that will help replenish soil moisture and give vegetation in northwest Oklahoma a boost. That, in turn, will help keep wildfire danger down, he said. Much of northwest Oklahoma has been plagued by wildfires over the past three weeks, driven by high winds and dry vegetation.

Still, McManus said, the rainfall didn't help everyone. Farmers and ranchers in Roger Mills County, on the Texas Panhandle border, are beginning to sell off cattle and give up on wheat crops, McManus said. Although parts of the county received as much as 2.5 inches of rain over the past week, the western edge of the county was largely left dry, he said.


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 ›