It is said that things are always “bigger” in Texas, well that is true for the current drought conditions in the Lonestar state as 98% of the state remains in a severe drought. 33% of Texas is categorized in an exceptional drought, the most extreme category according to the Drought Monitor.
The dry spell began in October of 2010 and continues into 2012. Texas had the driest hydrologic year ever from October 2010 to September 2011 and despite picking up some beneficial rain in November and December 2011 Texas recorded its driest calendar year ever as well.
Record heat across the Southwest in the summer of 2011 didn’t help either. Texas had the hottest summer in U.S. history averaging 86.8 degrees June through August, beating out Oklahoma's 85.2 degrees in 1934. New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana also recorded their hottest June-August ever.
The prolonged Texas drought is to blame for devastating agriculture and livestock losses, estimated in the billions of dollars. The historic drought has killed as many as half a billion trees, not including those that died in wildfires that scorched some 4 million acres in 2011.
Tuesday and Wednesday Texas could see some much needed rain, but it may come at a price as severe thunderstorms are expected to roll through.
There have already been several reports of golf ball-sized hail Tuesday near Austin, TX.
The storms are being fueled by the same storm system that brought heavy rain to Southern California on Monday. As this system continues to dig into the south central U.S. it will run into very warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and this will spark widespread rainfall and storms from Texas through Alabama in the days ahead.
The primary threat from the thunderstorms will be flooding downpours and lightning with a few producing damaging winds and large hail. You can’t rule out the chance of an isolated tornado either as severe thunderstorms have a tendency to rotate and could generate an isolated tornado or two.
The heavy rain will expand north and east overnight along with the threat of urban and flash flooding. The areas that are expected to get the heaviest rain are in central and northeast Texas as well as south and central Oklahoma. Most areas should receive between 1-2 inches of rain however some spots could get as much as 4 inches due to storms training over the same area. Being that the rivers are at all time lows, river flooding is not expected.
The risk of severe weather, including the possibility of tornadoes will continue to move east Wednesday and Thursday along the Gulf Coast. Thursday and Thursday night, the area of concern stretches from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle including Alabama where residents are still picking up from Monday’s tornadoes which included an EF3 tornado that hit Jefferson County killing 2 people and injuring hundreds.
The cold front attaches to this storm system will arrive in South Florida on Friday bringing a 30% chance of an isolated shower. No severe weather is expected as the upper level dynamics of the storm system move will to our north.