Severe Storm, Flood Threat in Drought-Stricken Parts of Texas

May 9, 2012; 3:11 PM ET
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Photo of flash flooding in Arizona from Corbis.

Locally severe storms and flash flooding are threatening bone-dry portions of western and southern Texas this week.

A nearly stationary front draped across southern and western Texas and extending back into New Mexico will be the focal point for rounds of thunderstorms through the end of this week.

The thunderstorms will be most widespread each afternoon with the aid of daytime heating.

Runoff is generated very quickly in these typically arid locations, so downpours threaten flash flooding. Repeated downpours hitting the same communities will heighten this threat.

"Dry stream beds, known to locals as arroyos and washes can rapidly fill with water. Keep children from playing in these areas. Use caution at low water crossings and be alert for rapidly changing weather conditions upstream," Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

By Thursday and Friday, a storm system tracking in from the West will force the rain and the storms to shift expand eastward across central and eastern portions of Texas and the southern Plains. Over the weekend, the lower Mississippi Valley will be the target of locally drenching showers and thunderstorms.

Severe thunderstorms could rattle across South Texas on Thursday afternoon as the storm system approaches from the west. Corpus Christi and Laredo are among the communities that should pay close attention to rapidly changing weather conditions and threatening storms late Thursday.

Large hail and damaging wind gusts will be the primary concerns with these storms. However; an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out.

East Texas, including the Houston area, may deal with a few severe thunderstorms on Friday.

A new round of showers and thunderstorms may unfold across the southern Rockies and West Texas next week.

The Rain is Welcome in Texas
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, western and southern portions of Texas are still suffering from severe to exceptional drought conditions.

Rainfall Deficits in West Texas Since Summer of 2010

Percentage of Normal Rain
From Aug. 2010-Present
El Paso
Del Rio

"In many cases, the roots of the current drought extend into the late summer of 2010 with rainfall of only 25 to 50 percent of normal," Sosnowski said.

"While rainfall in these arid areas is typically lean, cutting the rainfall by one half to three-quarters over the long term can have serious consequences on agriculture, drinking water and recreation. A lack of snow in northern New Mexico this winter, combined with the ongoing overall drought is seriously impacting water levels on the life-giving Rio Grande River."

The rain this week is not expected to be drought-busting, but any rainfall is welcome across the region. More rain on a "regular basis" would be needed to entirely reverse the drought conditions in places across West Texas, according to Sosnowski.

The 2012 Summer Forecast calls for some beneficial rain early in the season in southwestern portions of Texas as tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will be drawn around the back edge of a dome of high pressure dominating the Plains. However, the Texas Panhandle is expected to remain hot and dry.


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