The Texas Panhandle has become ground zero in a drought that has crept into much of the state just five months after Hurricane Harvey — including areas that suffered massive flooding during the storm.
More than 40 percent of Texas is now in a moderate to severe drought, according to the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. That’s compared to 4 percent on Aug. 29, a few days after Harvey slammed into the South Texas coast.
And dry conditions are expected to worsen over the coming months.
“As soon as Hurricane Harvey cleared Texas, then we almost immediately started going into the next drought,” said Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist for the Texas Water Development Board.
August was the wettest year in the state in 124 years, but every month since then — aside from December — has been considerably dry, he said.
Part of Beaumont, which saw nearly 50 inches of rain when Harvey stalled over southeast Texas as a tropical storm, is now in a moderate drought. And all of the city is considered “abnormally dry,” according to the drought monitor.
Drought conditions are particularly bad in North Texas and especially in the Panhandle, where all 26 of the region’s counties are in a severe to extreme drought and most have burn bans in effect. The outdoor fire restrictions don’t stop there, though: They’re in effect in more than one-third of Texas’ 254 counties, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Two bits of good news here. One is that Harris County is completely out of the drought zone, and two is that the longer-range forecast is for more normal rainfall beginning in May. One hopes that means a non-blistering summer. Be that as it may, this is what normal looks like now, one extreme to another. Maybe we should take climate change just a wee bit more seriously, you know, to try and cope better with this? Just a thought.