Weather report: Oklahoma's October weather was frightful

Staff Writer
The Shawnee News-Star

Despite the season, spring and winter weather stole most of the headlines during October. A cold front moved through the state on the sixth and dropped temperatures below normal, where they would remain for the rest of the month. Light snow fell in the Panhandle on the 11th, but the real wintry punch was yet to come. Over a foot of snow pounded the northwest on the 24th and 25th – a rare October snowstorm that shattered records. Arnett’s total of 13 inches on the 25th broke the record for highest 24-hour snow total in Oklahoma during October, and for that early in the season. Amounts from 6-10 inches were common. Winter wasn’t finished breaking records, however. A powerful cold front blasted through the state on the 28th, culminating Halloween morning with the lowest temperature ever recorded in Oklahoma during the month of October, and for that early in the season. Kenton dropped to zero degrees that day, besting the previous lowest October minimum of 3 degrees at Freedom from Oct. 29, 1993. Spring stepped in on the 20th and brought an outbreak of severe weather across eastern Oklahoma. The day saw winds of 70-80 mph, hail to the size of baseballs, and at least six confirmed tornadoes. All the tornadoes were considered weak – rated EF0 or EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale – but damaging nonetheless. The 2019 tornado count rose to 146, the most for any calendar year since accurate records began in 1950, eclipsing 1999’s previous record count of 145.

According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average temperature was 56.7 degrees, 4.2 degrees below normal and ranked as the eighth coolest October on record. Those records date back to 1895. Minimum temperature records were set or tied during the month at Lawton, McAlester, and Oklahoma City. Low maximum temperature records were also set or tied at Lawton and Oklahoma City. Grandfield recorded the highest temperature of the month with 95 degrees on the fifth. The cold October brought the January-October statewide average down to 62.9 degrees, 0.2 degrees below normal – the 61st coolest such period on record.

Despite a dry month in the western half of the state, October still managed to finish with a moisture surplus thanks to tremendous rains across eastern Oklahoma. The statewide average was 4.80 inches, 1.26 inches above normal to rank as the 21st wettest October on record. East central Oklahoma had an average of 10.46 inches, 6.02 inches above normal, to rank as their fourth wettest October on record. The northeast and southeast sections experienced their tenth and seventh wettest Octobers, respectively. Deficits across the west generally ranged from 1-2 inches. Thirteen Mesonet sites recorded at least 10 inches of rain for the month, with Jay leading the pack at 15.8 inches. Hollis brought up the rear with 0.28 inches, joining 12 other sites that failed to reach at least an inch of precipitation. The state remained on pace to finish with one of its wettest years on record. The statewide average was 41.54 inches, 9.61 inches above normal to rank as the sixth wettest January-October on record. Northeast Oklahoma’s average total of 59.89 inches stood at 22.72 inches above normal, the wettest first 10 months of the year for that corner of the state. That 10-month total also broke their annual total record, 57.82 inches from 1973.

The rainfall helped improve the drought picture, and the cooler weather kept new drought development in check. Drought coverage dropped from 11% to 8% during October according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought did manage to spread into the western half of the Panhandle from southwest Kansas. The November drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) holds out hope for drought improvement in the southwest, but sees persistence of the dry conditions in the Panhandle. CPC’s November outlooks call for below normal temperatures and precipitation across eastern Oklahoma and equal odds of below-, above-, and near-normal conditions over the rest of the state.