Oklahoma Drought Monitor 8/7/2012

Okiedawn OK Zone 7August 9, 2012

This week's Oklahoma Drought Monitor shows the continued deepening of the drought across the entire state.

It is linked below.


Here is a link that might be useful: This Week's Drought Monitor Map

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

If you click on the link below, you can see the big change from last week's Drought Monitor to this week's as a much larger part of the state moved into the Exceptional and Extreme Drought categories.

If you are watching local trees and other vegetation, especially in non-irrigated areas, you really start seeing more widespread drought stress when your area reaches Extreme and Exceptional Drought.

I am in the tiny sliver of Ok still in Severe Drought and I am seeing more and more leaves turning colors and dropping every day. This is actually a good sign. A broadleaf tree that is dropping leaves and going dormant still has enough energy that it is trying to save its own life by going dormant. The trees that have leaves that wither, dry and stay on the trees usually are the ones that are dying.

If rain returns in a significant way after some drought-stressed trees have gone dormant but before the temperatures are really cold, you will see the dormant tree leaf out and, if they are spring bloomers, sometimes they even will bloom. This occurs because a tree's system doesn't make a real distinction between winter dormancy or drought dormancy so when it comes out of dormancy it goes ahead and flowers.

That's the kind of rain we all need---plentiful rain that will revive the trees.


Here is a link that might be useful: Drought Monitor Last Two Weeks

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 10:51AM
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Oh, sheesh. I will not complain if we have excessive snow and ice this winter. It would take that plus a wet spring to make up for it.

Looks like yours is the lucky county, so far.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I think none of us ever dare complain too much about rain again.

I laugh at your use of the word 'lucky' because I am not feeling too lucky. However, the degree of drought here is not as severe as it is in most parts of the state, and we are far enough behind almost everyone else that I don't think we can catch up. By the time we hit D-3, everyone else will be moving into D-4. Heaven help us all if y'all are still in D-4 by the time we get there.

This state desperately needs significant rainfall and we need it fast or we will see wildfires like no one living has ever seen in Oklahoma before. Last week's and this week's wildfires are just a taste of what will happen if we don't get a lot more rain and sooner rather than later. Most parts of OK are already at the point that underground tree roots will burn. Think about that. When the tree roots ignite and burn underneath the soil, things are so bad that they are almost indescribable. One year a couple of our local VFDs kept getting paged back for reports of smoke in one area for weeks and weeks, but fire wasn't found. We finally figured out we had roots burning underground, on and off, for a couple of months. How strange is that? When it is that dry, the above-ground plants hardly stand a chance.

I've monitored drought very closely ever since we had D-4 drought here in Love County in 2003, and I've never seen as much of Oklahoma in Extreme or Exceptional Drought as we have right now. This is unprecedented since they begin putting out the U. S. Drought Monitor maps.

And, for the record, by the time the U. S. Drought Monitor classifies us as "Abnormally Dry", people here in my county feel like the drought is already horrendously bad. We should not take the lower categories lightly as they all are bad news--it is just the deeper and darker the color on the map, the worse things are.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 2:40PM
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OMG My trees are defoliating. However, that's not my alarm. Reading your last post makes me wonder if I am not creating a fire hazard by piling these leaves into their own compost pile unless I moisten routinely. I'll make certain I do.

I apologize to my husband only 30 minutes ago for not getting gourds into the ground even though they are not a necessity. It's something he would like to have for a hobby. I mentioned your reports of your own gourds in South Oklahoma and, considering your expertise and results, mine would have been "squat". When he heard me mention South Oklahoma he said, 'Oh gawd, it's a helluva lot hotter down there."

Not this year, I told him. lol

OH! In response to the local firefighters' needs they have set up donation boxes at the local stores including Walmart and they listed their actual needs such as tube socks, undershirt tees and some others I have forgotten. I thought that was terrific. Only one package of bottled water sat in there although water wasn't on the list.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


They are defoliating in order to survive. If you are able, try to water them deeply at least once a week. That amount of watering will not bring them out of dormancy from a once-a-week deep watering, and you don't want them to because coming back out of dormancy too soon would just be stressful. However, watering is essential for them now. They are saying to you "I am too dry, so I am going dormant to save myself, but I need help or I'll die, so please water me." At least they are putting up a good fight to survive.If you cannot water them, they may progress to death.

Moisten the leaf pile bit, but not too much. The last thing you want is a really wet leaf pile that could start cooking inside and combust the way that hay bales do if they are baled and put up in storage while too wet in the middle. What I do is this. I keep them a little moist, but if a fire is on the property next door, I wet down a couple of old blankets and throw them over the compost pile. It is hard to get a wet blanket to burn, so the wet blanket should keep your leaf pile from igniting. In the last couple of years, we've had 3 or 4 fires each summer on property adjacent to ours or across the street from ours, and I'm always worried that if the firefighters don't get those fires extinguished quickly, they'll burn up my compost pile, my remaining bales of hay mulch and my garden, so I usually run out with the hose to try to protect them.

My gourds are now sunburning. I left them on the vines hoping enough foliage would hang in there for a while so they could dry down on the vine and cure they way they usually do. I think I will pull them today and try to dry them in the shade. They may still be too green inside. The foliage is toast so there's nothing left to shade them. Next year, plant your gourds in April or May so they have a chance to flower and form gourds in summer and then be dry enough to harvest by fall. Late gourd plantings often have gourds that are still very green by frost and sometimes they cure well (though slowly) but other times they don't.

Most years we probably are not hotter than most other places in OK, but last year we hit 115-116 a couple of times at many places in our county, though not at our Mesonet station, and this year we've hit 112-114 at some places in our county, but there again not at our Mesonet station. I think our Mesonet station's highest temperature this summer may be 109, and that was yesterday. It also was 109 here yesterday. Overall, this summer has not felt as hot to me as last year overall, though there have been a few times that it felt so bad out there that I was sure it was the worst day ever, even though it wasn't.

Often, when firefighters are fighting those multi-day fires, some of them don't even go home. They'll sleep at the nearest fire station, sleep in their fire trucks, or sleep on the ground. That's why clean socks and undergarments are so helpful to them. Often they fight fire between 12 and 20 hours a day and just catnap. Sometimes they cannot sleep, which I think is part heat stress and partly from the big adrenalin rush that is inherent in firefighting. After having that adrenalin rush through an entire firefighting day, their bodies cannot just "turn off" the adrenalin easily and allow them to sleep.

I heard that some departments received so many donations of bottled water and Gatorade that they ran out of room to store it, so that's good, although I don't know if it is true of all the fire departments in the fire-stricken areas. The firefighters always can use bandanas and small towels too. A lot of our guys wear or carry bandanas to use to wipe sweat off their faces, to keep the sun off their neck, or to wet down and wear around their neck or on their heads to help keep them cool. I buy white terry cloth shop towels at Sam's or CostCo in bundles of 60, and you wouldn't believe how many bundles I buy in a year. We started out using old kitchen or bath towels, but I like the shop towels better. Trust me when I tell you that firefighters flinch when you hand them a flowery kitchen towel or a hot pink hand towel from someone's bathroom. White is simple and isn't too feminine for their taste.

Socks get wet fairly often and are very uncomfortable inside those fire boots....your feet just steam, so they love having an extra pair or two of dry socks stashed away in the fire truck. I usually have dry tube socks stashed away in one of the cabinets at the fire station so that anyone whose socks are wet can grab a spare pair.

My concern level for all parts of Oklahoma remains incredibly high. Between the heat and the drought, I believe many counties have the highest KBDI they've ever had, or are approaching that level, and August is not necessarily known for being a very rainy month. We need rain in a big way before the winds pick up speed in autumn. Even last week and this week the winds are high enough in some places that fires have been and will be hard to control.

This year it isn't just plant stress we have to worry about---people and animals are really stressed too. As we go about our daily and routine activities, I think it can be easy to forget that we are now living through what likely will go down in history as the worst drought ever in the USA since they began keeping records. That's monumental. For decades after this, people may look back at this point in history and talk about the drought of 2011 and 2012 they way our parents and grandparents talked about the drought years of the 1930s and 1950s.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:42AM
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I put the hose out this morning while working in the garden and I noticed the water happily running downhill. I'm afraid I'm going to have to dig down to its root area. I am SO not wanting to do that, but it looks like the only choice for that big old pecan tree hanging over the house. The roots probably extend into the garden area where I'm watering - hopefully, but since it is defoliating I need to do something else.

Gah, so frustrating. We have a 1,000 gallon stock tank with standing rain water in it. I suppose we can utilize that to avoid an excessive water bill. I'm afraid all the other trees are on their own. :(

Our favorite black walnut trees are toast - literally. First the ice damage in addition to a serious borer/bug problem, then the drought last year. I told Bill to go ahead and cut them down and we can hope for some regrowth from the stumps in those spots.

So, I can readily agree with ya on the historical events. It just seems all so horrible and the fall out probably will be felt for years from now.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

If you have any sort of organic soap, you can pre-treat the area under the tree by mixing a sprayer of water with a couple of teaspoons of soap and spraying the area you want to water with the soapy water spray. Just spray it enough to wet it down. The soap serves as a surfactant to help moisture adhere to and then penetrate the soil. You can use a mild baby shampoo if you have it, or any organic soap. I use Dr. Bronner's vegetable-based soap, but any organic soap will work. Once you're got the surface moist enough that water will soak in, then watering the regular way ought to work.

I know exactly what you're talking about with water beading up and running off. Our entire yard slopes and if I let it get too dry, that happens here, and it does it just as much in the one sandy-silty area as it does in the clay area.

Mulch can help too because the water will cling to the mulch most of the time and then drip down to the soil underneath.

They sell wetting agents and surfactants at some feed stores or garden stores and normally they are added to whatever you're spraying from a garden sprayer--like a pesticide or whatever. Plain old soap works fine on the ground, but I would be more careful spraying soap on living foliage because too much soap can act as a herbicide. I don't think it would hurt grass at as low of a level as a couple of teaspoons in a 1 or 2 gallon sprayer or in a hose end sprayer. I've often sprayed Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap on the grass when ants are making a trail someplace where I don't want them....like right beside the water faucet where they can climb on and bite whoever is hooking up a hose to the faucet. Sometimes you have to wet the ground, wait a little while, wet it again, etc. until you notice the moisure is starting to sink in.

As a fire prevention note, let me add this. If a wildfire is coming your way, you can add soap to a sprayer and soak down your landscape, roof, walls of the house, deck, etc. in the same way. The soap will help the water you spray adhere to the surfaces better, giving you better fire protection. Firefighters often use wetting agents like this when fighting grassfires, brushfires and wildfires. Sometimes they use commercial wetting agents. One we have used in the past was called Wet Water and it worked very well. Other departments just use a cheap dishwashing liquid. The guys at our VFD often "borrow" the big bottle of dishwashing liquid from our station kitchen when they need a wetting agent.

Sorry about your black walnut trees. You never know. They just might regrow from the stumps.

I'd save whatever tree or trees is most important. A person can only do what they can do. If rain falls in the next month or so, then trees that are going dormant now should be fine. The longer we go without significant moisture, though, the more likely it is that the dormant trees may not make it.

Last year, my county was in one form of drought, from D-0 (Abnormally Dry) to D-4 (Exceptional Drought) for every single week of the year. It was awful. We had what seemed like pretty good moisture in the fall and winter of 2011/12 and part of spring 2012, but our 2011 rainfall still was only half of our average rainfall. This year, I have watched as trees and shrubs that seemed to survive the 2o11 drought have died, one after another after another for months and months now. Even though they are dying this year, I know the real damage was done last year. Often trees can live off stored energy for quite a while before they suffer a delayed death. This can happen with transplant shock as well as drought damage.

We have trees and shrubs starting to look bad now even in areas where I have tried to water them enough. Today I've been doing landscape triage---looking at them, evaluating which is likely in the most trouble, and watering those that seem the worst off or most important to us. I don't know if I'll be able to save them. I may not know until this time next year, but I'm trying to do what I can without running up a huge water bill.

Obviously trees that shade the house are most important, followed by those that produce fruit, so that's what I am focusing on, and I am determined to keep the shade trees, especially those on the south and west side of the house alive.

Some people keep a bucket in their kitchen and one in the bathroom and recycle whatever gray water they can in order to pour it on the plants. My grandmother kept a dishpan in her sink and recycled ever bit of water from the kitchen all the time, not just during drought. She usually poured it on the fruit trees or berry brambles since losing them meant several years without fruit until new plantings could grow to a bearing size.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Aw, now. That sounds like a neat trick I'll need to try. Your slope sounds exactly like mine and it's just parched to almost sand on the top. Yet, when shoveled it is brick hard clay about 3 inches down. sheesh The dish soap sounds like a better option!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 4:52PM
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