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Oklahoma Drought Intensifies, Burn Bans Issued In Some Counties

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MIDWEST DROUGHT OKLAHOMA
In this Wednesday, July 18, 2012 photo, sunflowers droop in the Oklahoma heat near Woodward, Okla. The nation's widest drought in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) | AP

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahomans are bracing for another hot, dry summer as the drought in the state intensifies and forecasters say triple-digit heat with little chance of rain is to continue.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, released Thursday, shows the Oklahoma Panhandle, northwestern Oklahoma and far southeastern Oklahoma in extreme drought. Severe drought was reported from southwestern across northern and into east-central sections.

"It's exactly what we worried about when we entered the summer months, when we saw the precipitation start to drop off at the end of April," said associate state climatologist Gary McManus.

The conditions are also raising fears of wildfires in the state. Thirty of the state's 77 counties have declared burn bans, with Oklahoma County joining the list Thursday.

"One of the problems is we did have all that rain early in the spring," McManus said. "We didn't think of it as a problem at the time, but that allowed the vegetation to grow really quickly and become lush."

The vegetation is now drying out and becomes fuel for any fire that starts, he said.

Chances for rain to ease the conditions are slim, said forecaster Daryl Williams with the National Weather Service in Norman. Temperatures of 100 degrees or more are possible through the middle of next week.

"As far as any reasonable chance of rain to ease the heat, it's just not in the cards for the next several days," Williams said.

The heat and drought come on the heels of the summer of 2011 in which Oklahoma set the U.S. record for the highest monthly average temperature — 89.1 degrees — according to the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

The average summer temperature — 86.5 degrees — was the hottest in Oklahoma history. And Grandfield claimed the record for having 101 days with 100-degree or higher heat, smashing the previous record, 86, set in Hollis in 1956.

Summer 2012 does not appear in line to break those records, Williams said.

"Last year we just had unrelenting hot and dry conditions. We didn't have the rains we had this spring. That was the mark of last summer: We got hot early and stayed hot all summer long," according to Williams.

"We've had breaks here and there with rain this year."

Megan Freedman of Midwest City takes a practical approach to the conditions.

"I stay inside, and wear sunscreen when I have to go outside. Hey, at least it's not as hot as it was last year," Freedman said.

Kanda Ramos of Oklahoma City said she is unable to escape the heat.

"My house will not stay cool, I'm paying double on my electric bill," Ramos said.

"I'm not happy."

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