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Drought continues its march across state

Drought conditions continued across Southwest Oklahoma this week, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor Report released Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Rated in the first and lowest category of "abnormally dry" were northern Comanche County along the southeastern half of Caddo County, and all of Grady County except the extreme southeastern section.

Included in the second category of "moderate drought" were the remainder of Comanche County; all of Cotton, Jefferson and Stephens counties; the southeastern portion of Grady County; the northwestern half of Caddo County; and the southeastern two-thirds of Kiowa County.

The third category of "severe drought" was designated for all of Greer, Harmon, Jackson and Tillman counties.

No portions of the area were designated in the fourth level of "extreme drought" or the fifth and highest level of "exceptional drought." Several counties in northwestern Oklahoma were rated as "extreme drought" but no areas of Oklahoma were rated as "exceptional drought."

Ashleigh Hensch of Comanche County Emergency Management said the prevailing winter season of high winds, low precipitation and cold temperatures are major contributors to the dry conditions.

"We're not super bad yet in drought, but if it stays dry through the spring it could get worse and raise the fire risk," she said.

Hensch said there has been a recent uptick in the number of grass and other outdoor fires. However, she said the size of those fires has remained small. She said many fires are started by farmers use of mechanical and electrical equipment which generate sparks.

"One spark is all it takes to start a fire," she said.

Hensch said preventive measures to avert such fires include keeping a supply of water on hand and to be sure that no chains are dragging from vehicles.

At Monday's county commissioners meeting, Michael Merritt, the county's emergency management director, asked residents to be extra cautious about disposal of ashes from fireplaces. At that meeting, he reported there were 15 outdoor fires in the county during the previous week, including a structure fire that destroyed a home on West Lee Boulevard that originated in a plastic trash container outside the home which contained ashes from the home's fireplace. That fire then spread to the residence.

The Lawton Constitution

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