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Even record-setting rain isn't enough to ease Texas drought

October 11, 2011 |  1:07 pm

Texas has finally received some rain, but the weekend deluge has yet to make a dent in the yearlong drought that weather experts say could last a decade.

Some cities set daily rainfall records last weekend, prompting flash-flood warnings, including Waco, which received 5.83 inches of rain Sunday. Houston, in the midst of its driest year and after enduring its hottest summer on record, received 5.11 inches of rain, another daily record. Dallas got 1.37 inches.

Local online weather reporter Anthony Torres recorded video of a rainstorm at his San Antonio apartment on Sunday.

"We've got a total deluge right now," he says in the video, above, as thunder sounds and lighting flashes in the background. "You can see all the water just flowing like a waterfall down the stairs. It's been a long time since I've seen anything like that."

The rain may improve conditions in parched areas of Texas and Oklahoma enough for climatologists to downgrade the drought status from “exceptional” to “severe.”

But National Weather Service meteorologists caution that the recent downpour isn't expected to counteract the overall drought, which Texas state climatologist said earlier this month could last a decade. Before this weekend, 88% of Texas was experiencing exceptional drought conditions, according to the weekly national drought monitor published on Thursdays.

“That’s how big of a hole we were in to begin with,” said Victor Murphy, southern region climate service program manager for the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

Murphy told The Times that the state needs more than 15 inches of rain in a month's time to end the current drought, especially in hard-hit  portions of Central and West Texas.

Take Wichita Falls, for example. The city of 104,000 about 140 miles northwest of Dallas has been suffering from the drought and a severe summer heat wave. Although the city received 3.73 inches of rain over the weekend as of Tuesday, it was still the city's driest year on record by two inches, with only 9.44 inches of rain since January.

Murphy called the weekend rains a “black swan” event, which mostly helped a swath of the state from Wichita Falls west to Llano.

“It will be very interesting to see what kind of improvement is shown this week in the Drought Monitor,” Murphy said.

Considering the lateness of the season, it's unlikely that a tropical storm will swoop in and deliver the much-needed rain, Murphy said. And with the return of La Niña over the Pacific Ocean, drier-than-average conditions are likely to continue this winter, he said. 


Texas driving its cattle north amid drought

Texas wildfires largely controlled, but risks remain

Texas wildfires: More than 1,000 homes lost, thousands evacuated

— Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston

Video: Anthony Torres posted online video over the weekend showing a downpour at his apartment in San Antonio. Credit: YouTube