Record Heat, Drought Continues in Southern Plains

By: Christopher C. Burt , 7:45 PM GMT on May 07, 2014

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Record Heat, Drought Continues in Southern Plains

As a follow up to my previous blog, the early May heat wave continues making this perhaps the warmest period of weather ever observed this time of the year in portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and northwestern Texas. The same region is also off to one of its driest starts to the year ever observed.

Following all the heat records set on May 4th (as detailed in my last blog), May 5th experienced more of the same:

MAY 5th Heat Records

Abilene, Texas 104° (tied earliest such reading set on April 25, 2012)

San Angelo, TX 103° (ties same in 1984)

Amarillo, Texas 98° (tied daily record also set in 1940)

Oklahoma City 97° (previous record 94° in 1940)

Lubbock, Texas 99° (ties same in 2012)

Childress, Texas 105° (ties same in 2012)

Wichita Falls, Texas 102° (previous record 98° in 2012)

Tulsa, Oklahoma 92° (ties same in 1952)

Ft. Smith, Arkansas 93° (previous record 92° in 1952)

In addition to the above records broken or tied were daily records of 95° set in both Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina. Altus, Oklahoma reported an amazing 107° (actually 106.5°) at their Municipal Airport location which was the hottest temperature observed in the entire U.S. on May 5th. The data for this site (KAXS) seems a bit out of line with surrounding sites and so is suspicious.


MAY 6th Heat Records

Wichita, Kansas 99° (previous record 91° in 1986)

Oklahoma City 92° (ties same in 1918)

Wichita Falls, Texas 97° (previous 96° in 1929)

Amarillo, Texas 98° (ties same in 1940)

Medicine Lodge, Kansas 102° (previous record 95° in 1986)

Salina, Kansas 101° (previous record 94° in 1955)

Altus (KAXS), Oklahoma reportedly hit 104.4° and once again was the hottest location in the U.S. for the day. Today (May 7th) is shaping up to be yet another record-breaker across the same region.




All of Kansas has seen much below normal precipitation so far this year, with the past three months at or below 25% of normal for a large portion of the state. Wichita is on the brink of having its driest start to a year since records began there in 1888. Map from NWS-Wichita.

Accompanying the heat is a record or near-record dry start to the year. Waco, Texas and San Angelo, Texas are both off to their driest starts to a year on record as will be Wichita, Kansas if it doesn’t rain more than .36” by tomorrow, May 8th. Thunderstorms are in the forecast however.




Note that the tables for San Angelo and Abilene were as of April 30th. Since then San Angelo has moved into first place and Abilene has moved into 3rd place Tables from NWS-San Angelo and NWS-Dallas.



As the above graph illustrates, San Angelo is now experiencing its driest start to a year on record (POR began in 1907).

Adding to the heat and drought have been brush fires across the region, the worst of which was a ‘controlled’ burn near Guthrie, Oklahoma on May 5th that got out of control and consumed 3000 acres, about 6 homes, and 20 other structures with the loss of one life. A new fire ignited on Tuesday evening (May 6th) in Woodward County (about 130 miles west of Guthrie) and has resulted in more forced evacuations and two injuries.



Firefighters work to extinguish a flare-up near Guthrie, Oklahoma on Monday. Photo by Nick Oxford, AP.

Meanwhile, a late season snowstorm will affect the higher elevations of the Rockies today and tomorrow (May 7-8) with accumulations of 8”-12” possible above 8,000’.



Precipitation and snowfall forecast for the next 48 hours as of 14:00Z May 6th. Hopefully, some of this precipitation will move east and eventually impact the drought-stricken regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Map courtesy of Thomas Niziol at The Weather Channel.

I will be away on family business until next Monday, so this will be last blog until either Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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4. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
9:37 PM GMT on May 13, 2014
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
3. ColoradoBob1
6:51 AM GMT on May 13, 2014
Parts of Plains states in multiyear drought now drier than during Dust Bowl, kicking up storms

The number of dust storms seems to rise with the length of the drought. Amarillo, Texas, has had 10 this year; it had none in 2010. The city is about 10 percent drier now than the 42 months that ended April 30, 1936, and drier than the state's record drought in the 1950s.

Lubbock already has seen 15 days with dust storms this year, the National Weather Service said. In 2011, a rare 1.5-mile-tall, 250-mile-long dust cloud stretched across the rain-starved land and blotted out the sun. There were only four in 2010, which was the last wet year across Texas.

Weather service officials in southeastern Colorado only began issuing dust storm warning this year because they were becoming more prevalent; so far, the Pueblo office has issued 15 warnings. Two hours east, Lamar had only 32.6 inches of rain during the 42 months that ended May 31, 2013 — about 10 percent drier than the same time period in ending May 31, 1934.


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Member Since: August 13, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 2238
2. BaltimoreBrian
4:56 AM GMT on May 08, 2014
Lake Yellowstone observation site had a 23.3" of snow in June 1907, 4" in July 1913 and 4" in August 1943. Astro, maybe you should try being a park ranger up there! Course they've been down to -10 as late as May 9, so that might seem a bit brisk.
Member Since: August 9, 2011 Posts: 26 Comments: 8554
1. Astrometeor
3:12 AM GMT on May 08, 2014
Thanks for the blog, Chris.

Snow...in May...someone take me to paradise, please, lol.
Member Since: July 2, 2012 Posts: 95 Comments: 9783

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.