The recent rains over the southern Plains have been nothing less than spectacular, spawning a constant stream of severe thunderstorms that dumped inches of rain in short time, flooding areas that haven’t seen this much in years. The influx of water finally paid off: only a few small parts of Texas and Oklahoma are still in drought.
The amount of rain some parts of the Plains have seen over the past 30 days is astounding, with a couple of locations measuring more than two feet of rain since the end of April. Most of this precipitation fell in just a handful of storms, overwhelming the ability of both the ground and local infrastructure to deal with such a crush of heavy rain, leading to lethal flash flooding across much of the region from San Antonio to Oklahoma City.
Looking at it from purely a scientific standpoint, the onslaught of ridiculous rainfall did an incredible job in eliminating the region’s once-catastrophic drought. The drought was so bad a couple of years ago that an area larger than the state of Connecticut burned to the ground and headlines trumpeted that it could be the beginning of a “megadrought” that would last through 2020.
It is pretty astounding how quickly the drought vanished, which isn’t much of a surprise when you look at pictures and videos coming from the region.
Here’s what the drought looked like on February 24 of this year:
...and three months later, here’s what this morning’s drought monitor update shows for this past Tuesday (May 26), shortly after the squall line drenched Texas and caused a flash flood emergency in Houston:
Only 5.40% of Texas is still considered to be in drought, while 2.74% of Oklahoma—confined to the western part of the Panhandle—is in drought. Even so, more than 20% of Oklahoma is still considered “abnormally dry” (shaded in yellow on the map), mostly in areas near the Kansas border that haven’t been raked by supercells over the past couple of months. Around 17% of Texas is also abnormally dry.
According to Water Data for Texas, reservoirs across the state are sitting pretty at around 82% full, compared to just 62% full six months ago. The highest water levels are found across northeastern Texas, which is great for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, while reservoirs in the drier climes in western Texas haven’t fared well through the ordeal. Lake Abilene, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists; the lake is a puddle of its former self at about 3.4% of its capacity. The above graph shows the total storage of monitored reservoirs around Texas, showing the huge upward tick in water levels over the past month or two.
As mentioned earlier in the week, the region will have a chance to begin drying out in a couple of days, with the pattern that’s brought wave after wave of severe and flooding thunderstorms to subside and shift into the pop-up thunderstorm regime typical of the southern United States around this time of the year.