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May 2015 Now Officially The Wettest Month In Oklahoma History

30-day rainfall totals from Oklahoma Mesonet stations as of May 31, 2015.
Oklahoma Mesonet
30-day rainfall totals from Oklahoma Mesonet stations as of May 31, 2015.

No surprise here - May went down as the wettest month in Oklahoma history.

The final statewide average rainfall for May was 14.4 inches. State climatologist Gary McManus said that's nearly 9.6 inches above normal, and obliterated the 74-year-old previous record of 10.75 inches set in October 1941. The Oklahoma Climatological Survey has kept records since the 1890s.

“If it’s not tornadoes, it’s flooding. If it’s not flooding, it’s straight line winds. If it’s not straight line winds, it’s hail,” McManus said. “So this has certainly been a tumultuous month, but it’s also been a historic month for the state of Oklahoma.”

Some parts of Oklahoma saw more than two feet of rain last month, according to measurements at Oklahoma Mesonet stations. The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates the rainfall has alleviated most of Oklahoma's drought conditions.

McManus said the record-setting rainfall could influence this summer’s weather in a couple of different ways.

Soil moisture and green vegetative cover both have a cooling effect that might help keep temperatures down.

But if a high pressure system parks itself over Oklahoma, all the moisture could evaporate and go up into the atmosphere – leading to a hot, muggy summer.

There’s no rain forecast for the state for at least the foreseeable future, but residents continue to clean up from May’s severe flooding.

Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Keli Cain says damage estimates to Oklahoma roads and bridges already exceed $10 million.

“We have roads that have been underwater for weeks now. We have roads that have had continuous flooding,” Cain said. “Maybe it recedes each time, but it’s still being further damaged each time we have flooding, so it’s a very costly type of disaster.”

On Friday Gov. Mary Fallin said she's asked for federal assistance for 16 more Oklahoma counties affected by May's storms.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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