Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Drought Update: How Things Are Going Depends on Where You Are

Randy Haaga / Flickr/Creative Commons

Interstate 10 is flooded near an overpass in Houston after Hurrican Ike. The Houston area was the largest beneficiary of the recent storms in Texas, but of course that can bring harm with it as well.

It’s been an interesting role reversal for Texas weather these past couple of months. June, typically the state’s wettest month, was bone dry. But the high summer, a time of highly variable precipitation, has been downright soggy, especially this current week. Of course, we aren’t complaining.

What does all this wet weather mean for the state’s drought prospects? So far, it’s too early to say anything definitive. The weekly Drought Monitor Map was released Thursday, but the data it uses is cut off earlier in the week, on Tuesday morning. So, the rain the state received in the past two days – a significant amount – has yet to be added.

Still, if certain Texas cities’ recent advancements are any indication, a leap of improvement may be within reach.

For instance, the City of Austin announced it would lift Stage II watering restrictions Thursday morning. Though, there is one key caveat: a press release from the city says, “watering hours will be less than in regular Stage I restrictions.”

The city that has been the largest beneficiary of recent rainfall (excluding possible flood damage) is Houston. With some nearby areas getting over 10 inches in the past 4 days and rains forecast to continue through the weekend, the city’s cushion against drought will likely grow.

San Antonio and its environs also got a deluge in the past week that replenished the Edwards Aquifer, the city’s water source, with a whole foot of water. This clears apprehensions about getting to Stage 3 watering restrictions, which is required whenever the aquifer dips below 640 feet. They technically remain in drought, however.

Dallas County has not been in drought since late January when it was relieved by more consistent winter and spring rains, but relapse remained a threat as the dry summer unraveled. It didn’t received the same level of recent rainfall as points further south, but it has been wet enough to stave off relapse for the moment.

West and South Texas haven’t received as much rain as the aforementioned areas either, but they’re not being completely left out. According to data from the National Weather Service, almost all of this area received from at least a trace of precipitation to about two inches. The “summer monsoon” season is in full swing.

On top of all this progress, the likely advent of an El Niño in the fall, which typically brings with it wet conditions, only raises the prospect of finally busting the drought.

As Texas’ drought prospects improve, much of the country still languishes in aridity. The US Department of Agriculture has declared about a third of the country a disaster area because of drought conditions. Particularly hard hit were parts of the Corn Belt, raising concerns about the health of the corn crop and the potential for a consequent price increase.

It seems Texas is getting some of the drought-busting ingredients it needs. Hopefully the rest of the country follows suit. In the meantime, we eagerly await next week’s Drought Monitor Map to see just how much relief came our way this rainy week.


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