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Special Livestock Wx Update for April 17, 2018: Fires in the Panhandle and western Oklahoma and could the drought be on its way out?

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Wildfires in Panhandle and Western Oklahoma

There is a high chance of a significant wildfire outbreak today (April 17) from Colorado eastward into Kansas and down into the Oklahoma-Texas Panhandles and western Oklahoma. Strong winds and low relative humidity values along with extremely dry fuels could cause new fires to exhibit rapid rates of spread. The wind should decrease around 6pm-CDT time on today.

On Wednesday and Thursday, parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas could still see enhanced fire weather concerns, however, on Friday rainfall in the area should decrease fire-weather fears.

Current Fire Activity:


  • 34 Complex, Woodward County, OK: Fire has burned over 67,776 Acres (Est), 45 percent contained.
  • Rhea Fire, Dewey County: Fire has burned around 248,589 Acres (Est), 3 percent contained.  The fire started in Dewey County, OK and has now moved into Custer and Woodward counties.
  • Martha Fire, Jackson County, 33 Acres (Est): 70 percent contained. This fire has damaged or destroyed numerous structures (homes and/or outbuildings) Saturday. Damage assessments are ongoing.


  • Carbon, Wheeler County: Fire has burned an estimated 12,530 acres and is 75 percent contained.
  • 2473, Gray County: Fire has burned an estimated 805 acres and is 80 percent contained.
  • High Plains, Hutchinson County: Fire has burned an estimated 501 acres and is 90 percent contained.
  • Harbor Bay, Hutchinson County: Fire has burned an estimated 1,109 acres and is 90 percent contained.
  • CR 26, Wheeler County: Fire has burned an estimated 1,386 acres and is 95 percent contained.

Is this the Beginning of the End for the Drought?

During winter, boundaries between air masses can be extreme, and the jet stream is strongest. During the summer, temperature contrasts are much smaller, and the winds within the jet stream are weaker.

Spring is a time of jet stream transition. While the jet stream is generally more stable for extended periods of time in winter and summer, the spring jet stream can be quite active with frequent changes in position and intensity. These changes align with significant temperature swings, the possibility of severe storms, and heavy rainfall. Depending on where the heaviest rain occurs, improvement in existing drought can occur. As much of Texas and Oklahoma enters into the wettest time of year, we will continue to watch for any signs of a pattern change.

For this week, though, a storm system will push across the southern tier of the U.S. late this week and into the weekend, bringing needed rain to parts of drought-stricken Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas.

It’s still days away, so confidence in specific rainfall totals is only modest, but the image below shows the 7-day accumulated precipitation forecasts should bring around an inch or so of rain over areas that need it most. To put this in some context (not that everyone needs it), if the Texas Panhandle were to receive an inch of rain, it will be the most rain in close to 6 months. Another way to put this is to show an image of the observed 180-day percent of average precipitation. While any rainfall will help, you can see there are significant rainfall deficits that could require six or more inches of moisture to make up for the shortages over the last 6-months.

Livestock Weather Journal

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That’s it for this week.  As always, if you have any questions about conditions around Texas and Oklahoma please contact us at: [email protected]

Apr 17, 2018 General Discussion, livestockwx