Just how cold was April 2013 in Oklahoma? According to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average temperature came in at 55 degrees to rank as the seventh coolest April on record, 4.1 degrees below normal.
Records of that type began in 1895. That sounds fairly cold, but becomes downright frigid considering the state's recent climate history. It could be measured against last year's April, the eighth warmest on record, which finished with a statewide average temperature of 64.1 degrees. Better yet, it could be measured against last March's record warm mark of 59.6 degrees.
And this also comes soon after Oklahoma's record warm year of 2012. Regardless of statistics, the evidence speaks for itself, such as the record late freezes in many locations, or the snow and ice that accumulated on tree branches where buds should have appeared.
The frosty weather was a continuation of cooler than normal conditions that began in mid-February and persisted through March. The March-April statewide average temperature was 51.1 degrees, 3.5 degrees below normal to rank the first two months of spring as the 12th coolest on record.
April became the third month in a row that saw the state finish with below normal temperatures, a feat not accomplished since the winter months of 2011-12. Prior to this February, 28 of the previous 34 months in Oklahoma were warmer than normal.
The drought relief that began in February also gained momentum during April. According to Oklahoma Mesonet rain gauges across the state, the average precipitation total came in at exactly 4 inches for the month, about 0.6 inches above normal.
That would rank the month as the 37th wettest April since records began in 1895. Not all areas of the state saw equally beneficial rains, however. The Oklahoma Panhandle saw a half-inch of precipitation on average to rank April as the ninth driest on record for that area.
The most significant rains fell from Kiowa County in the southwest through Pottawatomie County in central Oklahoma. Totals along that path ranged from 8 to 11 inches. Chickasha led all Mesonet stations with 10.6 inches. Boise City in the far western Panhandle only recorded a tenth of an inch of moisture for the month.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report reflected those recent rains with more than 25 percent of the state out of drought, mostly across eastern and central Oklahoma. Areas across western, southern and northern Oklahoma were depicted in more significant intensities of drought, with 54 percent of the state still categorized in at least severe drought.
April was an active severe weather month. Although the count is still preliminary, at least a dozen twisters struck the state during April.
The most significant tornado, rated EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, struck Delaware County early on the 18th, destroying a home and damaging others. Two people were injured by a tornado that touched down near Spavinaw earlier that night.
The preliminary tornado count for the year rose to 16, close to the average number for January-April. The severe weather came in frozen form, too. An unusually thick layer of ice coated western and northern Oklahoma on April 10 and caused widespread power outages and traffic accidents. That severe winter blast arrived on the heels of temperatures in the 80s the day before.
Another wintry blast on April 23 coated power lines in the Panhandle with more than a half-inch of ice to cause power disruptions in that area. The most damaging severe weather during April might have also been its most benign.
Each of those cold air outbreaks dropped temperatures below freezing for a significant period of time, long enough to do damage to wheat and other crops already stressed from prolonged drought.
Parts of southwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle were thought to be particularly hard hit from the damaging freezes. The final assessment on the scope of the freeze damage might not occur until harvest time in late spring.
More unusually cold weather was due to hit the state in early May with the possibility of more freezing weather, including snow and ice across northern Oklahoma.
Further out, the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center forecast increased odds for below normal temperatures across Oklahoma for May.
The precipitation outlook was non-committal with equal chances of above-, below- and near-normal precipitation on tap. May through mid-June is Oklahoma's primary rainy season across most of the state.