We finally had a widespread precipitation event last week, although it didn’t bring any good news to the northwest half of the state. The heaviest rain totals ended up being across far Southeast Texas. That region received four to six inches of rain over the last two weeks. Most of Northeast Texas, East Texas, the Brazos Valley, and Southeast Texas have generally seen one to two inches of rain over the last two weeks. The D/FW Metroplex south through Austin and San Antonio generally received rainfall amounts under one-half inch.
Seventy-one percent of Texas is now considered to be in a drought. That number was just under sixty-five percent last week and only fifteen percent back on November 14, 2017. Extreme to locally exceptional drought conditions continue across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, and Northwest Texas. Records are being shattered in the Texas Panhandle where some locations have not received accumulating rainfall in 130 days.
Severe drought conditions exist across Texoma, the Big Country, south through the Hill Country and Central Texas. A sliver of the Coastal Plains/Middle Coast are also experiencing a severe drought. Southeast Texas is in the best shape thanks to the last two rainfall events.
This week’s drought monitor written summary is courtesy of Eric Luebehusen with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It includes several notable statistics including historic short-term rainfall deficits.
For the second consecutive week, moderate to heavy rain in eastern portions of the region contrasted with intensifying drought across the southern Plains and environs. Rainfall totaled 2 to 6 inches from eastern Texas into Tennessee, with two-week totals of 6 inches or more in east-central Mississippi. The net result was a widespread reduction of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate to Severe Drought (D1 and D2). Despite the moisture, longer-term deficits persisted in the Delta’s core D1 area, with 90-day precipitation 50 to 70 percent of normal (locally less). Farther west, Extreme Drought (D3) expanded further across northern Texas, with even more notable increases in D2 in central Texas. The drought situation remained unchanged in Oklahoma, with rain sorely needed as warmer weather begins to stimulate the growth of crops and vegetation. From Lubbock, Texas, northward into Oklahoma, little — if any — precipitation has fallen over the past 90 to 120 days; the four-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was well below D4 levels (-2.0 or lower, with some below -3.0) in these locales. The lack of rainfall is affecting winter wheat, pastures, pond levels, and streamflows. Impacts will rapidly escalate if rain does not materialize soon. To put the dryness in perspective, February 14th marked the 124th consecutive day without rain in Amarillo, shattering the previous mark of 75 days (records date back to 1892). In Lubbock, February 14 marked the 98th consecutive day without measurable precipitation, tying the record. Other notables in Texas include Plainview and Memphis, which are both now at 130 days without measurable precipitation. Similar statistics are emanating out of Oklahoma, where Woodward and Laverne just reached 127 days without measurable precipitation as of February 14. The situation on the southern Plains is rapidly becoming dire, and precipitation will be needed soon to prevent further expansion or intensification of drought.
We’ve got two upcoming rain events that have the potential to bring drought relief to portions of Texas. The first event will begin on Friday and continue into Saturday. Unfourtinietly the Texas Panhandle looks to miss out on this event. The good news is we’re going to see some beneficial rainfall amounts across Northeast Texas, East Texas, back west toward Interstate 35 south through the Brazos Valley.
The seven-day rainfall forecast from the Weather Prediction Center indicates the potential of two to four inches of rain across eastern North Texas, Northeast Texas, East Texas, into the Brazos Valley, and eastern sections of Central Texas. One-half inch of rainfall will be possible along and east of Highway 281 over the next week. These rain totals are going to change, but certainly marks the best chance of accumulating rain thus far in 2018.
A second storm system will bring a chance of thunderstorms to the eastern half of Texas next Monday and Tuesday. Confidence in particulars is too low to be more specific at this time. A warm and moist airmass will be in place ahead of the storm system with above-average temperatures. An unstable airmass in conjunction with strong wind shear may result in the risk of stronger thunderstorms. We’ll keep tabs on this potential in the coming days. We’re making the switch into an active weather pattern.