April Showers…………….help the State of Texas Recover from Drought

20 04 2015

hereThe last edition of the Texas Emergency Management Online provides a good summary overview of drought conditions in the State.  We know that the last week or so has caused a tremendous amount of rain in our area, along with some severe weather.  Much of the State has also received a good dose of rain this week.  This is a good thing (of course, not the severe weather part); it helps to fill our lakes and aquifers which are in need of more water.  Information from the Texas Emergency Management Online:

For the past few months, drought conditions around Texas have been a mixed bag. East Texas has seen tremendous recovery, while North Central and Central Texas keep slipping back into severe and exceptional drought conditions. Most reservoirs west of I-35 are still at historic lows. Overall, the state’s current reservoirs are at 68.4 percent full, up four percent from last year.

C’mon, El Niño! Currently, the Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Niño advisory due to conditions in the tropical Pacific. Traditionally, El Nino brings increased moisture to Texas—a welcome relief to much of the state. The National Weather Service is predicting that there is a 50-60 percent chance for El Niño conditions to continue in the Northern Hemisphere until summer 2015. The expected presence of El Niño is causing predictions for above normal rainfall over the next three months for most of Western Texas and some of the central region, where drought is predicted to intensify or persist.

Drought Continues in Texas

18 05 2014
Michael Norris, file/AP  Bottom of Pond near Amarillo Texas

Michael Norris, file/AP Bottom of Pond near Amarillo Texas

We have been fortunate in the Houston region when it comes to rainfall; just recently it was noted that Lake Conroe is finally full for the first time in four years.  However, we are still below the “average” for the year.  So, additional rainfall will be welcome, not only across the State, but in our region also.

How bad is the drought in the southern United States?  The National Weather Service (NWS) and its NOAA partners have released the May 2014 Southern Plains Drought Outlook Summary.  Drought conditions now cover 70% of Texas; and also 70% of Oklahoma and 90% of New Mexico.  Over two-thirds of the region’s winter weather crop is in poor to very poor condition.  Oklahoma’s harvest is project to be the worst since the fifties.

And, here is some good news.  The likelihood of an El Nino event bringing potential drought relief is always a possibility for us in the southern United States.  Experimental guidance from NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences pegs the odds of an El Nino occurring at 80%.

Strategies for drought preparedness focus mainly on water conservation.  Even though we don’t have severe drought issues in Fort Bend County, making water conservation practices a part of your daily life is always a good idea.  Here are some good practices designed to preserve water:

  • Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. For example, use it to water your indoor plants or garden.
  • Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year.
  • Check all plumbing for leaks and have any leaks repaired by a plumber.
  • Retrofit all household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.
  • Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water needed to flush. Place a one-gallon plastic jug of water into the tank to displace toilet flow (do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to the internal parts). Be sure installation does not interfere with the operating parts.
  • Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on paved areas.
    Repair sprinklers that spray a fine mist. Most misting issues result from a pressure problem, properly regulating pressure in an irrigation system will prevent misting.
  • Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
  • Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.

Fort Bend County, Fireworks, and Drought

28 12 2012

Just in time for New Year’s Eve, the Texas Forest Service has determined that drought conditions no longer exist in Fort Bend County.  The KBDI Index must be an average of 575 for drough conditions to exist within a TexasFireworks county for the purpose of restricting certain aerial fireworks.  Though the County’s index was nearing 500 just a few weeks ago, it is now at 419.  So aerial fireworks will now be allowed to be used in the unincorporated areas of the County on New Year’s Eve; but remember, most cities have bans on the use of fireworks.  Please check with your local jurisdiction to make sure what the regulations are for use of fireworks.

However, many places in Texas are still facing drought conditions.  Public water systems across the State, and in our area, are taking actions to conserve water usage.  There is a possibility that dry conditions may continue across the State for the next several months.  As a matter of fact, the Gulf Coast Water Authority is attempting to limit the use of water by ten percent.  The Gulf Coast Water Authority provides water to some areas in Fort Bend County.  For more information, the City of Missouri City has issued a Media News Release on the subject (published on December 28, 2012).  The content of the News Release is below:

Missouri City Drought Contingency Implementation

Texas is experiencing widespread drought conditions. Forecasts for early 2013 include below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has issued an Order requiring the implementation of certain water use restrictions, and, as a result, the Gulf Coast Water Authority has set a goal of 10 percent reduction in water use. As a result, effective December 28, 2012, the City of Missouri City has implemented the Stage 2 Response of its Drought Contingency Plan for its Surface Water Treatment Plant Utility Service Area.  This is the area served by Sienna Plantation Municipal Utility Districts. 

The current (time period) water supply reductions and corresponding demand restrictions are temporary in nature; however, the current end date is unknown. 

The City in conjunction with the Gulf Coast Water authority will be monitoring usage and sharing information, and the City will be supplying notice and reports relating to the drought contingency plan to local and state authorities.  

At this time, for residents of Sienna Plantation utility districts, please implement the water conservation measures specified by your utility provider.  Typical water use restrictions include limitations on outdoor watering and at home washing of vehicles.

For more information, please contact your utility provider at the number on your water bill or you may contact the City for additional information at 281-403-8500.

3/4’s of Texas now back in drought

28 11 2012

I recently came across the article below on the HoustonTomorrow website (www.houstontomorrow.org).  In what follows, you can read Matt Dietrichson’s article which discusses a new report indicating that most of Texas is facing severe drought conditions.  At this time, the Fort Bend County average KDBI drought index is 549.  Perhaps not time for a burn ban, but it is definitely drying out in our area and the Office of Emergency Management and the Fire Marshal’s Office will be monitoring the dryness level on a continual basis.  Our neighbors in Brazoria County have a KBDI level over 600 and have implemented a burn ban.  With dry conditions, the possibility of wildfires is a distinct possibility.  Hopefully, a few good thunderstorms will produce the rain that is needed, but as the article below indicates, there is also a good chance of continued dryness.

Though conditions are still much better than they were a year ago, a new report from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows the majority of the state is in a drought, according to Eric Berger in the  The Houston Chronicle:

The latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, released this morning, shows that more than three-quarters of Texas is now in at least a “moderate” drought, and nearly half the state is in a “severe” or worse drought.

Now to be clear, conditions are still far better than 13 months ago, when the great 2011 drought peaked. At the time 100 percent of Texas was in a moderate drought, 99 percent in a severe drought, and 88 percent in an exceptional drought.

But conditions have gotten quite a bit worse since May, when the drought was at bay for about half of Texas, including the Houston metro area. Now the majority of greater Houston has returned to drought conditions.

Although November isn’t over, it’s possible Texas could end with its driest October and November period since 1950, says Victor Murphy, a climate specialist with the Southern Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service.

Statewide average rainfall for Texas in November 2012 should be about 0.5 inches versus a normal of nearly 2 inches, he said.  That would make the October/November time period total about 1.3 to 1.4 inches, or about 30 percent of the state’s normal of 4.60 inches.

There are two take-aways. First, although climate change is having an effect on Texas, most notably in temperatures, there are no indications it’s having a meaningful effect on rainfall trends, especially in the October/November period.

With that said, it’s a bit concerning to me that the October/November period the state is currently enduring may end up being drier than the October/November period in 2010, when 1.85 inches of rain fell. That launched the state in the great drought of 2011.

I’m not saying that will happen again. It very likely won’t. But it’s certainly not a good way to go into winter.

2011 – Year of Record Heat and Record Drought

2 01 2012

The National Weather Service indicated today that 2011 was the hottest year on record for the City of Houston;  tying with the year 1962.  The average temperature for the City of Houston, at Bush Intercontinental Airport, was 71.9 degrees in both years.  Though we did not have much threat from tropical storm systems, those in the Houston region put up with weather conditions that were very hot, very dry, and caused the potential for dangerous wildfires.  Celebrators on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve were restricted in the types of fireworks that could be used in an effort to reduce wildfires in the urban area. 

The National Weather Service indicates that the City of Houston recorded 24.57 inches of rain in 2011, making 2011 the third driest year on record.  Further, the National Weather Service indicated that the rainfall totals this year rival the normal rainfall values for some cities in west Texas; places such as Abilene and San Angelo.

More Rain Could Wreak Havoc on Fort Bend County Roads

11 10 2011

Well, the good news is that we finally got a good soaking rain over the weekend in Fort Bend County. Around two inches fell across the County, and reportedly over five inches fell out in the Needville area.  This is was first significant rain in our area since January of this year.  The KBDI level dropped significantly— to a level under 600.  Definitely a needed respite from the 100 degree temperatures that the drought conditions that we have experienced for the last six or seven months.

On the other hand, it seems that the rain that we all wished for is causing some serious problems for our roadways.  Over the last couple of days, Sally MacDonald, myFOXHouston, has reported on the effect the recent rain has had on our County’s rural roads.  She reported on October 10th and 11th:

After our weekend rain, there are new concerns about area roads damaged by months of drought, but the full impact won’t be known for years. How bad the ground shifts all depends on what the weather does in coming months. 

It’s a smooth ride now, but right around the corner rural, asphalt roads in Fort Bend County are splitting wide open.   The cracks are happening faster than Marc Grant’s crews can make it out to repair them. 

“I’d say a minimum of 30% of our roads are in disarray right now,” said Grant, Fort Bend County Road Commissioner. 

Grant says drivers aren’t in danger. 

Homeowner Terence Romney acknowledges, though, that some of the larger cracks have almost swallowed his Boxer, Bruce. 

“Sometimes his foot goes in, and if his foot goes in the next time he’s walking he’s going to be jumping,” said Romney. 

Blame the unrelenting sun for cutting the life span of one of the roads in Bridlewood Estates in half. It’ll take a lot more rain than what we got on Sunday before experts can truly grasp the scope of the problem. 

“If we get small rains, short rains these cracks may firm back up. If we get large, inches upon inches and days and days of rain it could really be bad for us,” said Grant.

That’s because too much moisture inside the cracks will wreak even more havoc on the shifting ground. 

“Eventually this roadway will start pushing laterally into the ditch,” said Grant. 

In the past road crews have tried to repair the cracks. 

“This is the filling they did last time, and look what happened it’s right back to where it was and even got wider,” said Romney. 

This time Grant says crews will wait to fix less traveled rural roads until a full weather pattern has run its course.   Busy roads are getting immediate attention. Grant says he won’t know the financial impact until we get more rain.

Drought in Fort Bend County likely to persist through rest of 2011

27 09 2011

Long-term prospects from drought relief do not look very good.  Per NOAA Drought Outlook valid until December 31, 2011, the entire State of Texas is forecast to be in area where drought is likely to persist or intensify.  Similar conditions are forecast for most of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  See US Seasonal Outlook map.  Click on seasonal_drought.