Rains Helping Drought Conditions Across Texas



Storms that have swept across Texas in recent weeks have brought much-needed rain, helping to alleviate drought conditions, officials said Thursday.

"Many parts of the state are well out of the drought," said Travis Miller, who works in the soil and crop science department of the Texas Cooperative Extension. "I can't think of a place in Texas that's not in a better place than it was last year.

"Virtually the whole state is green. We've got favorable growing conditions."

The rains came at a heavy price. Accompanying tornadoes, hail, winds, lightning and floods led to 10 deaths in less than two weeks, and property damage was extensive, especially in Dallas-Fort Worth, where hundreds of thousands lost power Tuesday night into Wednesday.

Oncor Electric Delivery had more than 300,000 homes and businesses without power at the height of the storm. By 4 p.m. Thursday, the number had been reduced to 107,500 outages, mostly in Dallas-Fort Worth.

About 2,600 Oncor employees, including 950 tree-trimmers, worked to restore power. The company said it was the fifth worst storm it had experienced. The worst was June 1, 2004, and left 1.41 million customers without power.

More storms were moving through the Dallas-Fort Worth area and through Houston and Southeast Texas Thursday night.

But the moisture could help make the summer more bearable, said Gary Woodall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

"Generally, the more moisture we have in the ground, the longer the vegetation will stay green and the more difficult it will be to heat up into extremely high temperatures," Woodall said.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has had about 14.6 inches of rain so far this year, compared to about 12.4 at the same time last year. In San Angelo, about 10.6 inches of rain have fallen so far this year, compared to about 4.2 this time last year. Midland has seen about 6.7 inches compared to about 3 inches a year ago.

"It certainly does help with short-term drought relief -- water supplies, stock tanks," said Michael Young of the National Weather Service in Midland. "It certainly greened things up -- that helps with our fire danger situation."

The owner of a Dallas-area landscaping company said growth will really take off when the sun comes out more regularly.

"This is all new to everybody right now," said Bane Bonner, owner of A Pro's Edge Lawn and Landscape in Rowlett.

"All the grass here is green," said Ruben Garcia, a lawn technician with Super Grass Lawncare in Dallas. "The stresses that the grass went through last year are just not here."

Miller said the state's wheat crop is back to normal after last year, which was the worst since the early 1970s.

There are, however, some areas that could use more water. One of the sources for the water supply for much of West Texas, Lake Meredith in the Panhandle, is still about 40 feet below where it needs to be, said Kent Satterwhite, general manager of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority.

"It's going the right direction," he said. "We're still in pretty bad shape. But it's better than going down."

Last August, the lake reached a record low of 53.66 feet, barely half the record high came of 101.85 in 1973. The level Thursday was 56 feet.

Carla Daws, spokeswoman for the Texas Water Development Board, said that while reservoirs are filling, "we are facing a Texas summer, and we need to continue to use water wisely."