October to usher in dramatic weather change for South Central
There's cooler air on the way for those sweltering in the south-central United States, but the region will have to endure severe thunderstorms and flooding risks to get there.
Temperatures across the central United States continue to run in record-challenging territory, but severe thunderstorms will usher in a new weather pattern.
After an abnormally warm September in the southern Plains and Texas, temperatures more akin to autumn are finally forecast to sweep the region. The dramatic pattern change, however, will come with the dangers of localized flooding and severe thunderstorms.
Warmth in Texas to finally end
Sweltering conditions from the summer lingered across the south-central United States throughout September. Texas was especially warm with cities like Dallas, Austin and Lubbock all ending the month with temperatures 6 or more degrees Fahrenheit above the historical average. The city of San Antonio finished the month of September with temperatures averaging 7.2 degrees above the historical norm, with high temperatures in the 90s or 100s every single day.
Farther north, temperatures at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport were also quite balmy, only dropping below 70 four times in the entire month. The airport also set six new daily high-temperature records.
A dearth of rainfall has also accompanied the warmth, stretching back to the beginning of summer. The Dallas-Forth Worth airport has recorded only 2.08 inches of rainfall since June 1, just 19 percent of the historical average from June 1 through the first day of October. A similar story has unfolded across much of central and eastern Texas, resulting in widespread extreme to exceptional drought across the region according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
AccuWeather forecasters say a major change is on the way this week.
The same storm system forecasted to bring abruptly cooler weather and even some snow to much of the West will be moving into the Plains as the week progresses.
"A cold front will push southeastward from the Rockies to the Gulf Coast during the second half of the week, bringing with it falling temperatures," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Heather Zehr.
Widespread high temperatures in the 80s are expected across Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. In the northern Texas panhandle and Oklahoma, afternoon temperatures may only reach the middle 70s. After Dallas had weeks of high temperatures in the 90s and lower 100s, temperatures will struggle to reach the lower 80s by Thursday afternoon. Highs in the middle 90s early this week in Little Rock, Arkansas, will be replaced with a high near 80 by late week.
"Even though this is a big temperature change, the highs forecasted by the end of the week will still be near, or only a couple of degrees below, the historical average for early October," Zehr explained.
Temperatures near the historical average are expected to continue through the end of the week and even into the first full weekend of October.
Severe thunderstorms, flood risk to proceed cooldown
The more comfortable conditions, and what will feel to some like the end of summer, will come at the cost of severe weather.
The clash of mild air in the Plains early week with the cool air coming out of the Rockies could produce severe thunderstorms prior to the drop in temperature.
Severe thunderstorms erupted across New Mexico, western Texas and eastern Colorado on Monday, threatening additional cases of damaging wind gusts and hail through Monday night. Hailstones ranging in diameter from nickel-sized to golfball-sized fell from the sky Monday afternoon, according to local storm reports.
On Tuesday, the temperature clash shifted east, so too did the severe weather risk. 2 to 3 inch hail, or hail the size of baseballs, fell on portions of Kansas according to local storm reports.
As the cold front moves to the south and east, it will bring rounds of thunderstorms along with it. The threat of severe thunderstorms will remain likely again on Wednesday, but flooding downpours may also become more of a widespread risk from Wednesday through the end of the week in drought weary regions of Texas.
AccuWeather meteorologists warn that some locations may see rain and thunderstorms lingering as late as Friday, depending on how long it takes for the front to move east and south of the region. The slower the front moves, the greater the risk that the same area gets several heavy downpours, heightening the flash flooding risk.
As previously mentioned, accompanying the recent heat waves in the south-central U.S. has also been a lack of rainfall, which could make the impacts from wet weather even worse.
During the months of August and September, Fort Worth, Texas only recorded 0.98 of an inch of rainfall, 20% of the historical average during this time frame. In Houston, only 29% of the historical average rainfall fell during the same two months.
The abnormally low rain amounts have crescendoed into a significant drought across the region. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 32.9% of the south-central region is currently in extreme drought, an uptick from 1.1% three months ago. Additionally, the coverage of severe drought in the region quadrupled from 3.6% in late June to 16.1% in late September.
"The blossoming drought in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana may make these areas more susceptible to [flash] flooding," said Zehr.
Dry ground has difficulty absorbing a plethora of water all at once. Instead, some of the water will pool on top of the ground and drain into any low-lying locations.
"Very dry ground can harden and become almost like concrete," explained AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jake Sojda. "After an extensive lack of rain, it can take time for the ground to soften and become more 'spongelike' and able to more effectively absorb rainfall once again."
Once the downpours end, the rain will eventually bring some relief to the drought-stricken regions.
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