HOUSTON — The rain that started trickling into Texas in the fall may finally be making a dent in Dallas, but the rest of the state is still a long way off from being out of a historic drought, and climate experts are warning against any premature partying.
“It’s still a very tenuous situation,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy. “Water concerns are a high priority. If we have a dry spring and a hot summer it will be a very perilous situation.”
The good news comes from the U.S. Drought Monitor map, a weekly analysis of dryness in the country. It indicated Thursday that the Dallas-Fort Worth region and a swath of North Texas stretching to the state’s border with Oklahoma and Arkansas are officially out of drought for the first time since July.
But this makes up less than five percent of Texas and the downside is that the same data shows that parts of the state that are still in severe or exceptional drought have actually increased in the past week by two percent, to 27.36 percent. In addition, almost 60 percent of the state is in some form of severe drought.
“Texas is so big you can’t talk about the whole state in generalized terms,” said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center who helps draft the map.
The drought in Texas, parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana began about a year ago. For Texas, the situation has been especially dire because of its size. The drought’s severity has impacted everything from cattle numbers to bird migration and the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said it’s encouraging that the North Texas soil is now saturated and he thinks the region’s hay crop could be decent this season.
“I think things are going as well as we could hope for,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “The key going forward is to manage our supplies under the assumption that we’re going to have a second year of drought.”