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Record Maximum 82 F ERIC 2008
Record Minimum -2 F BOIS 2014
Record Rainfall 2.07" SEIL 2000

* Mesonet History = since 1994

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March 1, 2021      March 1, 2021      March 1, 2021      March 1, 2021       


A February to not remember

 
http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb2021.graph.png

Hey now, I had to relive February to write that summary below, so why shouldn't
you have to as well? Okay, if you don't want to, forget the graphic above, and 
don't skip to below the break. However, if you do skip, you'll miss out on all
sorts of fantastical and wonderful tidbits, like it was cold, and it was really
cold, and cold stinks, and so does snow, and I wish it was summer, etc. etc.

As for this week, expect mild (i.e., blessedly boring) conditions with a chance
of rain today in southern OK and another chance Thursday into Friday. The 
forecast rain totals are reversed from what we've seen recently, with the 
highest amounts in the far northwest. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/nws-norman-7day-temps.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/7day-precip-outlook.gif

And now, back to February for a recap of all its nastiness. We could concentrate
on the positives in February? Okay, I'll list them off here:

It was 81 degrees on Feb. 23.

What, you're still here? 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Historically Frigid February Punctuates Winter
March 1, 2021

Oklahoma experienced a historic cold air event during February, boosting the 
month into the company of other legendary frozen periods from calendar pages 
long torn away and discarded. February 1895, February 1899, and January 1930 
all suffered through exceedingly long cold spells. More recently, December 1983
still lives in the minds of many Oklahomans as the bellwether of cold months, 
which followed those winters of the late 1970s when bone-chilling cold was 
simply a way of life; but those cold times were more than 37 years ago. Even 
February 2011 and its all-time state record low temperature of minus 31 degrees
at Nowata, and all-time low wind chill of minus 47 degrees at Medford, still 
managed to finish only 2 degrees below normal. All the more shocking then to 
see the return of a generational winter blast, complete with ice, snow, and 
plenty of misery. 

A seasonable first few days of February soon gave way to a preliminary blast of
Arctic air on Feb. 7, dropping temperatures across the state into the 20s and 
30s. Several rounds of freezing drizzle provided treacherous travel conditions 
across the state. Temperatures continued to plummet over the next 7-10 days, 
culminating with historically cold air Feb. 14-16. The statewide average 
temperature on Feb. 15 was minus 0.7 degrees, more than 40 degrees below normal
and the single coldest day statewide since at least 1915. Sparse station 
coverage prior to 1915 prevented accurate statewide estimates for comparison. 
The previous record coldest day was Dec. 22, 1989, with an average of 1.9 
degrees. Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 14-16 also set records as the coldest 2-day and 
3-day periods at -0.1 degrees and 2.1 degrees, respectively. Lowest minimum and
maximum temperature records fell throughout the state over those days. The
records for 4-day through 7-day periods were all set in Dec. 1983. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb14.lows.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb14.highs.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb15-lows.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb15-highs.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb16-lows.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb16-highs.png

Unlike many of the state’s garden variety cold spells, this event extended to 
Oklahoma’s southern border and beyond. Ninety-six of the Mesonet’s 120 sites 
recorded their all-time record low temperature on either Feb. 15 or Feb. 16. 
Mesonet temperature data go back to 1997. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/2021_cold_outbreak_records.png

Overnight on Feb. 16, all 120 Mesonet sites were below zero for the first time 
in its history. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/all-below-zero.jpg 

The Mesonet site at Broken Bow reached a low of minus 9 degrees on Feb. 16, 
topping the town’s previous all-time record low of minus 5 degrees set at the 
National Weather Service’s (NWS) cooperative observer site on both Jan. 12 and 
Jan. 22, 1918. The cooperative site at Idabel reached a low of minus 12 degrees
the morning of the 16th, breaking the previous all-time record low of minus 11 
degrees from Feb. 2, 1951. Healdton’s minus 17 degrees from the 16th now tops 
all its record lows dating back to 1894. Oklahoma City’s minus 14 degrees on
Feb. 16 was its second lowest temperature on record behind minus 17 degrees from
Feb. 12, 1899. Tulsa’s minus 14 degrees, also on the 16th, is its fourth lowest
temperature dating back to 1905, with a top mark of minus 16 degrees from Jan. 
22, 1930. At least eight long-term NWS sites with periods of record of more 
than 70 years broke their all-time record lows during the event. Even the high 
temperatures were extraordinarily cold, at times below the record daily low 
temperatures. Billings and Medford both recorded high temperatures of 1 
degree—Billings on the 16th and Medford on the 15th—which would have broken the
previous record *low* temperatures for the day at those locations. That feat 
was repeated across the state numerous times between Feb. 14 and Feb. 16. 

The Oklahoma Mesonet’s 120 stations recorded wind chill values of minus 10 
degrees or lower 439 times between Feb. 12 and Feb. 19, bottoming out at minus 
36 degrees at Boise City on the 15th. The state’s all-time record lowest wind 
chill is minus 47 degrees on Feb. 10, 2011, at Medford. There were 38 wind 
chills of less than minus 30 degrees, and 251 less than minus 20 degrees. 
Temperatures slowly climbed back to something akin to seasonable by Feb. 20 
when every site in the state broke the freezing barrier, many for the first 
time since Feb. 7. That 13-day span matches what many locations experienced in
the deep freeze of December 1983. The Mesonet site at Lahoma spent the most 
time under the freezing mark at 334 hours from the afternoon of Feb. 6 through 
the afternoon of Feb. 20. Even locations in far southeastern Oklahoma spent 
over 200 hours below freezing during that time. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb14-low-wind.chills.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb15-low-wind.chills.png
 
http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210222/total-freeze-hours.png

Another key similarity to past extreme cold events was an abundance of frozen 
precipitation. Snow shovels were still busy clearing sidewalks and driveways 
after the first storm over Feb. 14-15 when the second storm hit on Feb. 16-17. 
Between the two snowfalls, totals of 5-15 inches were common across the main 
body of the state, with a bit less in the far northwest and the Panhandle. The 
NWS cooperative observer at Roosevelt in southwestern Oklahoma led the state 
with an official report 17 inches of snow, although unofficial reports of 
higher totals were scattered around. Strong winds gusting to over 40 mph pushed
the dry snow into piles several feet high, drifting roads shut and creating 
hazardous driving conditions. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/nws-norman-feb14-17-snow-totals.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/nws-shreve-14-17-snow-totals.jpg

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/tulsa-feb16.17-snow.jpg

The frosty 2-week span took a tremendous toll on Oklahoma. A state of emergency
was declared by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Feb. 12 for all 77 Oklahoma counties, and 
President Joe Biden declared all 77 counties as federal disaster areas on Feb. 
18 at the request of Gov. Stitt. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency
Management and Homeland Security (ODEMHS) reported a total of 750 
weather-related injures, with 538 of those being due to slips or falls. The 
cold placed immense strain on the region’s power suppliers and infrastructure,
forcing rolling blackouts of electricity and cutbacks in gas service. The 
extended freezing weather damaged more than 120 public water systems according
to ODEMHS, and many residences and business across the state faced frozen and 
burst pipes. The damage to agriculture was still being assessed, including harm
to winter crops and livestock. 

The statewide average temperature for the month was 31 degrees according to 
preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the sixth coldest February on 
record and an astounding 11.1 degrees below normal. The record belongs to 
February 1905 at 27.6 degrees. February was also the 20th coldest of any 
calendar month out of a possible 1513 months dating back to 1895, well short of
January 1940’s record lowest of 23.7 degrees. The lowest temperature of the 
month was minus 22 degrees, recorded at Kenton on Feb. 15 and Nowata on Feb. 
16. Those are the lowest reported temperatures in Oklahoma since Nowata set the
all-time record low of minus 31 degrees on Feb. 10, 2011. The state’s highest 
temperature of 81 degrees came at Waurika on Feb. 23. Despite warmer than 
normal weather for December and January, the climatological winter 
(December-February) finished 2 degrees below normal at 37.4 degrees statewide, 
the 29th coolest winter on record. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb-avg-temps.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb-temps-departure.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/winter-avg-temps.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/winter-temps-departure.png

The heavy snows were unfortunately light on moisture. Rains on February’s final
two days helped to lessen deficits that had built during the month, but every 
section of the state finished below normal. The statewide average for the month
finished at 0.78 inches, 1.05 inches below normal and ranked as the 27th driest
February on record. Broken Bow led the state with 4.22 inches of rain. Totals 
dropped quickly to the northwest, however, with much of northern and western 
Oklahoma seeing less than a third of an inch of liquid moisture. Buffalo had a 
paltry 0.04 inches for the month. Eighty-six of the Mesonet’s 120 sites 
recorded less than an inch of rain for the month, and 54 recorded less than a 
half-inch. Deficits ranged from less than a half-inch in the Panhandle to 1-2 
inches over the main body of the state. The winter in its entirety fared a bit
better with a statewide average of 5.23 inches, 0.22 inches below normal, to 
rank as the 51st wettest on record. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb-rain-totals.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb-rain-departure.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb-rain-pct.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/season-rain-totals.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/winter-rain-departure.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/season-rain-pct.png

Drought was mostly unchanged during February, given the frigid conditions. 
Continued dry weather forced intensification across south central and 
southeastern Oklahoma, however, with a new area of moderate drought indicated 
in those areas on the month’s final U.S. Drought Monitor map. Only 15% of the 
state remained in drought at the end of February. The March outlooks from the 
Climate Prediction Center (CPC) show increased odds of above normal 
temperatures across the entire state—but especially southwestern Oklahoma—and 
below normal precipitation over the western two-thirds of the state. Those odds
for drier weather are greater across the western one-third, but especially the
western Panhandle. CPC’s drought outlook showed no changes to the drought 
depiction are expected through March. 

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/jan26-drought.monitor.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/feb23-drought.monitor.png

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/march-temp-outlook.gif

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/march-precip-outlook.gif

http://ticker.mesonet.org/archive/20210301/march-drought-outlook.png

Gary McManus
State Climatologist
Oklahoma Mesonet
Oklahoma Climatological Survey
(405) 325-2253
gmcmanus@mesonet.org