March’s weather ran the gamut of nearly all the hazards Oklahoma has to offer, befitting a seasonal transition month in the Southern Plains. Winter got the first crack with a blast of arctic air during the month’s second week. Temperatures plummeted and a storm system blanketed the northern half of the state with 2-3 inches of snow. The frozen weather resulted in numerous traffic accidents and closed many businesses and schools. Spring took its turn with at least three tornadoes rumbling out of Texas across Love, Marshall, and Johnston counties on March 21. The twisters produced significant damage in and around the Kingston and Lake Texoma area, destroying homes and knocking out power to nearly 10,000 customers. Several injuries were reported with the storms, and one fatality occurred across the state line in Texas. One of the tornadoes was rated as an EF2 by National Weather Service personnel that surveyed the damage. Other severe storms occurred on March 17 and 29 with scattered reports of large hail and high winds. Fire danger was a common occurrence throughout the month, a result of the continued dry conditions. Several large fires burned out of control during the last week of March, including the Washita River fire that spread from the Texas Panhandle into Roger Mills County in Oklahoma. The fire, which was still not contained at month’s end, burned nearly 40,000 acres and at least eight structures. The ongoing drought was a constant backdrop to the other weather hazards. Dry conditions that began late in the summer of 2021 were somewhat alleviated by the rain and snow during March. Coverage of the drought dropped through the month from 87 percent at the end of February to 76 percent at the end of March according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The most intense areas of drought—extreme and exceptional—dropped from 52 to 34 percent over that time.
According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average precipitation total finished at 2.45 inches for the month, 0.33 inches below normal and ranked as the 60th wettest March since records began in 1895. Totals ranged from 6.73 inches at Broken Bow to 0.17 inches at Kenton. While deficits were not terribly large, generally ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 inches, they were still prevalent across much of the state. Conditions were much drier in far southwestern Oklahoma and the western Panhandle, and wetter in the northern and eastern sections of the state. Fifteen of the Mesonet’s 120 sites recorded less than an inch for the month, and another 27 had less than 2 inches. Eighteen stations reported 4 inches or more. The first three months of the year were 1.42 inches below normal with a statewide average of 4.62 inches—the 45thdriest January through March period on record.
Several winter intrusions inched the month to the cool side of normal. The statewide average temperature was 50 degrees, 1.2 degrees below normal and ranked as the 59thwarmest March since records began in 1895. Temperatures across the state ranged from 94 degrees at Hollis on the 29th to 7 degrees at Eva on the 12th. Wind chill values dropped below zero in the Panhandle on several days, the lowest of which was Eva’s minus 7 degrees on the 12th. The first three months of the year were 2.1 degrees below normal with a statewide average of 41.9 degrees, the 56th coolest such period on record.
The Climate Prediction Center’s temperature and precipitation outlooks for April do not give much hope for drought relief through the next month. The outlooks show increased odds of above normal temperatures for the entire state, and below normal precipitation for the southwestern two-thirds of Oklahoma. Those odds are enhanced across far southwestern Oklahoma and the western Panhandle for precipitation, and again in the southwest for temperature. CPC’s April drought outlook shows persistence or intensification during the month where drought already exists, but no new development is expected. The possibility of blowing dust across western Oklahoma due to the dry conditions is also mentioned.