Lawton Considers Cloud Seeding

LAWTON, Okla.- The City of Lawton is hoping to put an end to the recent drought by cloud seeding in hopes of triggering rainfall.

Using the age-old method, a plane would fly into the clouds and disperse chemicals into them. That would create ice crystals which would then melt into rain. City Councilman Keith Jackson proposed the idea in Tuesday night's council meeting and got the board's approval to move forward with a coalition of other counties and cities in southwestern Oklahoma.

During the drought in the late 60s and early 70s, the City of Lawton used cloud seeding. Many citizens, including local farmers, believe the process actually worked to end the drought.

Jackson believes the history Lawton has with cloud seeding would make it a good place to try the process again.

"You know, whether or not it was Mother Nature that broke the drought or the cloud seeding, I know the people back in that time were convinced that the cloud seeding did it," said Jackson.

Meteorologist Katie Western says cloud seeding can work, but there are no guarantees.

"Basically, it's just kind of giving a boost to a cloud to try to get it to actually have enough moisture so that the rain will fall out of it," explained Western.

Jackson says that boost that the clouds would be getting through cloud seeding, if it works, could really pay off for Southwest Oklahoma.

"Obviously, it will benefit the agriculture economy. Obviously, it will bring drinking water to the citizens. Obviously, it will help the economy. Obviously, it will help with recruitment of jobs in the area," said Jackson.

According to a project report finalized this week, one city, just across the Red River who recently underwent the process, benefited from their efforts last fall.

Wichita Falls Director of Public Works Russell Schreiber says his city turned to cloud seeding as a last resort, and it paid off, though not as much as they had hoped for.

"We didn't see as much benefit as we had hoped, but we do think we benefited somewhat from the project. Obviously, it wasn't a drought buster, that's for sure, but I think that it did help," said Schreiber.

The City of Wichita Falls flew 37 cloud seeding missions. The project totaled more than $240,000. Schreiber says it was money well spent since the city saw a 150 percent return on their investment.

Regardless of the potential return, Jackson says the City of Lawton doesn't have the startup money to fund the project. That is why they are hoping to get funding from the state and federal government as soon as possible.

"We are in a hurry as a matter of fact. Spring is fixing to be upon us and we feel like if we miss another spring with no water, no rain to speak of, then this next summer is going to be rugged," said Jackson.

Each cloud seeding flight costs anywhere between $7,000 and $15,000.

The City of Lawton says there is no time line set for the process of cloud seeding, but that each decision moving forward will be made by the city council allowing citizens the chance to weigh in.