SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Scattered heavy rains brought badly needed relief to parched north and west Texas overnight, but forecasters said on Friday that the storms quickly passed and were not enough to break the devastating drought that has gripped the state.
Hardest hit was the town of Del Rio, which received nearly four and a half inches of rain in two hours, according to the National Weather Service. Scattered rain in the Dallas area prevented the region from hitting 100 degrees for the first time in forty days, two days shy of the record.
“No, unfortunately, none of it was nearly enough,” said meteorologist Ken Boone of the Weather Channel. “Those people who got rain were lucky to have a cell right over them. This is not the sweeping frontal system that we need.”
All possibility of rain goes away after Saturday night, Boone added.
“After that, the state is dry through the week,” he said.
Heat advisories remained in effect in the south central part of the state, where heat indexes were expected to reach as high as 109 degrees, according to the Weather Service.
July was the hottest month ever recorded in Texas, said state climatologist John Nielson-Gammon, and the 12 months ending July 31 were the driest since records started being kept in 1895.
The state has entered a “vicious cycle” where the heat and drought feed on each other, he said.
“Without any moisture in the ground to evaporate, the thunderstorms can’t form. It’s the same thing that causes the high temperatures,” Nielson-Gammon said.
“Usually when we see record heat, we’re seeing record or near-record dryness.”
That dryness is affecting nearly all of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported 94 percent of Texas is suffering from either extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe categories.
While brown lawns and empty swimming pools are common in cities under severe water-use restrictions, Travis Miller, professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University, said agriculture and ranching have been devastated.
“It will clearly, in my opinion, be the largest agriculture loss we have ever experienced,” Miller said, estimating farmers and ranchers stand to lose $8 billion, double the losses from droughts in 2006 and 2009.
And he says the worse may not have even arrived for Texas.
“Climatic models show there is another La Nina system, which is blamed for this drought, coming our way this fall,” Miller said. “That is not a good thing.”
Editing by James B. Kelleher and Ellen Wulfhorst