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Growing Worse While Expanding Across The State

One of the worst droughts since the extreme drought years of the 1950s currently grips much of Central and South Texas. In some places, the soil is so dry and the land is so barren cows are keeling over and dying due to the lack of vegetation. Stock ponds, full just a year ago, are now nearly dry. And many old trees are in shock or have died due to the lack of rain. Many old-timers say these conditions are very reminiscent of the 1950s. And they'€™re right. For locations between Austin and San Antonio, La Grange and Victoria, 2008 was the driest year on record since the mid 1950s. For these same locations, 2008 was also one of the driest years on record, dating back to the late 1800s. Here many springs have gone dry, in some cases for the first time in recorded history. Lake and aquifer levels are way down. Climate scientists call this an “exceptional” drought, the worst category of drought, and unfortunately it’s spreading to most other parts of the state.

Statewide, 2008 ended up slightly dry, the 31st driest year since 1895. But as far as the rain distribution went, it was kind of a strange year with normally dry areas being wet and normally wet areas being very dry. There haven’t been too many years when large parts of West Texas, the lower Rio Grande Valley and the Panhandle received more rain than the central part of the state. Of course, three hurricanes and a tropical storm played a role in this unusual distribution.

No one knows for sure what is causing the drought across Texas. But one of the ingredients behind the dry pattern IS the phenomenon called La Nina. La Nina refers to the development of unusually cool waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean that disturbs the normal flow of the Jet Stream, resulting in drier than normal weather across Texas and much of the southern US. The current La Nina developed last fall, peaking in intensity early in January. In fact, December 2008 ended up being the fourth driest December on record.

While much of the Deep South and East Texas experienced a fairly wet summer, the central part of the state baked and dried out under the relentless summer sun. Then in the fall La Nina began to strengthen and rainfall across the entire state decreased. Texas experienced the statewide departure from normal rainfall for all of 2008. There is the large area of South and Central Texas that received only 25 percent to 50 percent of normal rain. This year has picked up where 2008 left off with very dry to extremely dry weather conditions in place across the entire state.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows various levels of drought gripping almost all of Texas, with extreme to exceptional drought—the worst categories of drought—covering most of Central and South Texas Farmers and ranchers from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley are reporting dry pastures with very little soil moisture. Frequent periods of windy weather and low humidity levels have increased the fire danger. Wildfires have been increasing despite widespread county burn bans. Trees and vegetation are stressed. It’s an ugly picture. Most long-range weather models indicate La Nina will remain alive through a good part of spring, finally dissipating in late spring or early summer. With that in mind, weather forecasters believe a drier than normal weather pattern will continue across Texas through much of spring, possibly longer.

In other words, the drought looks to continue this spring and conditions will likely grow worse before they get better. For some areas, it’s hard to imagine how things can get any worse. Beyond late spring, there'€™s some thought (and hope) that conditions will begin to improve some as La Nina fades and tropical weather season begins.

But the latest forecasts fall short of seeing an end to the drought anytime in the near future. The first half of 2009 is shaping up to be a tough year weather-wise. There’s no doubt about it, this is one of the worst droughts Texas has seen in a long time. But keep in mind that droughts are a way of life in Texas. According to one South Texas saying, "Texas weather is one long drought, interrupted by some occasional floods"€. Lately, that couldn’t be truer. It’s just a matter of time before the skies open up and the rain returns. But getting to that point is going to be a long and difficult journey.

This article is written by Bob Rose and was printed in the 2009 Confluence Newsletter for the First Quarter in the Texas Water Conservation Association. Bob is the chief meteorologist at the Lower Colorado River Authority. He hosts a regular video weather blog on www.lcra.org where he discusses special topics such as drought, lake levels and retail customers'€™ watering schedules.

Atlas Plumbing Is A Proud Supporter Of

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Atlas Plumbing arranged for a subcontractor, who does tunneling, to came out and dig an 18 foot tunnel under the patio and under the house. Other plumbing companies wanted to tear up the patio. Atlas replaced the broken line and then trenched out to the city sewer and laid a new pipe. After the inspector approved the work, they did an excellent job of packing the dirt back into the tunnel and covered the trench.
  -- Arthur M. - Plano, TX