Texas drought keeps a firm grip on Austin even after October storms

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Central Texas took two hits this week, but the latest data shows drought continues to have a firm grip on the region, and forecasters expect a major drought driver, La Niña, persists in the coming months.

Any rain is good rain in Texas these days. October in Austin normally produces about 3.91 inches of rain, according to National Weather Service climate data, as cold fronts move more frequently through central Texas ahead of winter.

But La Niña – a phenomenon where the tropical waters of the eastern Pacific become colder than normal – can alter the path of the jet stream, a circulating river of air that keeps cold air blown northward. During La Niña, the jet stream generally stays further north in Texas, resulting in warmer and drier periods than normal.

Sure enough, October in Austin started off much warmer and drier than it should be. The metro area didn’t receive its first measurable dose of rain until Oct. 16 to early Oct. 17, when the city recorded 0.73 inches of rain at Camp Mabry, site of Austin’s main weather station.

Then last Monday, a line of thunderstorm squalls soaked central Texas and rain gauges at Camp Mabry captured 0.86 inches more rain, for a monthly total of 1.59 inches.

How much rain did we have on Friday?

Austin’s second bout of rain in less than a week dropped about a half inch of rain at Camp Mabry on Friday. Meanwhile, other rain gauges monitored by the Lower Colorado River Authority show up to 1.28 inches of rain fell around the city. Some of the highest rainfall totals recorded Friday in the Austin metro area included:

  • 1.28 inches on Barton Creek at Loop 360 in southwest Austin.
  • 1.19 inches at Cow Creek near Lago Vista in northwest Travis County.
  • 1.02 inch near Cedar Creek in western Bastrop County
  • 0.93 inch near Dripping Springs in northern Hays County
  • 0.74 inch near Florence in northern Williamson County

Austin also remains well below normal for annual precipitation. Before Friday, the city had recorded just 19.91 inches since Jan. 1, which was about 10.4 inches below normal for this point in the year. But Friday’s rainfall won’t make up for an ever-increasing deficit, which currently stands at just under 10 inches.

On Friday, University of Texas students walk to campus in the rain.

What do we know about Monday’s tornado?

The squall line on Monday evening also produced an EF-1 tornado in Jarrell that flipped vehicles, tore roof pieces off homes and snapped tree limbs in northern Williamson County, the National Weather Service this week.

An EF-1 tornado has peak winds between 86 mph and 110 mph. It is the second weakest tornado category on the Enhanced Fujita Scale used by meteorologists.

Based on surveys of damaged areas in Jarrell, meteorologists estimate the tornado had peak winds of 100 mph, traveled approximately 4 miles in a path about 150 meters wide. Only one injury was reported, the weather service said.

The tornado “landed west of Interstate 35, just west of CR 234 and north of CR 239” and tracked southeast, damaging mostly trees and a barn .

“The tornado also collapsed a two-story house that was still under construction near CR 310 and CR 237,” the weather service said in its post-investigation summary. The tornado then crossed I-35 south of CR 314 and north of Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

“A tractor-trailer was overturned on I-35 and the driver was slightly injured,” according to the weather service. “Nine wooden poles were knocked down on the north side of I-35, including one snapped in half.”

According to county emergency management officials, a fire station in the Jarrell Emergency Services District took a heavy beating during the storms, sustaining roof damage and bay doors blown out by the storms. But the weather service’s investigation team said they “could not find evidence of a tornado and concluded that the damage was most likely caused by a broad band of straight-line winds of 60 to 80mph”.

After:Tornado confirmed in Jarrell, where fire station, houses damaged by winds

Texas Drought Data, October 27, 2022

How bad is the drought in Texas?

Drought data released Thursday by the US Drought Monitor, a joint effort of the National Drought Mitigation Center, the US Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, indicates that drought conditions across Texas are not have not moved. Data shows that 93.4% of the state is experiencing drought. This is exactly the same percentage as last week.

Meanwhile, in central Texas, the rain that drenched the region last Monday was not much help (Friday’s rain is not included in the most recent drought data.):

  • About 53.7% of Hays County along its western and southern border remained in exceptional drought, which is the worst level of drought and is characterized by widespread crop loss and susceptibility to fire danger.
  • The western half of Travis County, or about 46.3%, remained in extreme drought, the second-worst level, which includes cracked soil, declining crop yields and the need for additional livestock feed.
  • About 50% of Caldwell County, except for a strip in the northeast, remained in extreme drought.
  • About 90.6% of Williamson County remained in severe drought, which is characterized by poor pasture conditions, hard soils and low crop yields.
  • Most of Bastrop County, about 75.6%, remained in severe drought with an area along its northern border in moderate drought, which can often mean stunted harvests, early livestock sales and increasing frequency. forest fires.

Drought Monitor data also indicates that about 15.4 million of the state’s 29 million people live in drought-stricken areas. Additionally, 2022 to date remains the state’s eighth driest year in the past 128 years.

How is the Austin area water supply holding up?

Regional watersheds feed critical water sources like underground aquifers and Highland Lakes west of Austin — and readings show they need to be replenished quickly.

Data from the Lower Colorado River Authority, which manages the Highland Lakes for hydropower and flood control, shows the volume of water stored in the reservoir lakes, Travis and Buchanan, would be full at around 2 million acres. -feet. On Friday, that number was around 1.06 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre one foot deep.

Lake Travis, the popular water playground that also serves as a regional water source, was considered to be at just 47% capacity, according to LCRA data. The water elevation at Mansfield Dam, which forms the lake, was about 640.6 feet above mean sea level, or 24.2 feet below the historic October average.

Readings from index wells in the Edwards Aquifer, an underground layer of porous water-bearing rock beneath central Texas, show minimal improvement. In early October, the aquifer level at the J-17 showing well in Bexar County had a 10-day average reading of 632 feet, 31 feet lower than the historic October average, according to the National Weather. Service. On Friday, however, the J-17 well’s 10-day average was 632.5 feet with a daily reading of 633.2 feet, the Edwards Aquifer Authority reported.

What’s the weather like in Austin?

Austin on Saturday can expect partly sunny skies and daytime temperatures reaching a high of 71 degrees, but cooled by 10-15 mph northwest winds with gusts as strong as 25 mph.

More clouds will arrive during the evening, but overnight temperatures could drop to as low as 53 degrees amid north-northwesterly winds of 5 to 10 mph.

The weather service’s extended outlook calls for plenty of sunshine and little chance of further rain:

  • Sunday: Fairly sunny with a high of 76. Partly cloudy overnight with a low of 52.
  • Halloween: Partly sunny with a high of 78. Overnight, partly cloudy with a low of 54.
  • Tuesday: 20% chance of showers after 2 p.m. Otherwise, mostly sunny with highs of 76. Chance of rain persists overnight before 8 p.m. under partly cloudy skies with lows of 56.
  • Wednesday: Mostly sunny with a high of 81. Partly cloudy overnight with a low of 62.
  • Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high close to 83.

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