Wettest weather in months brings drought relief – but is it enough?

Flooding at 7416 West Highway 71 on Sept. 9 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bynum)

Flooding at 7416 West Highway 71 on Sept. 9 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bynum)

Last week, a cutoff low pressure system off to our west was responsible for the active, wet weather. These types of storm systems are notorious for bringing heavy rains and severe weather as they are cut off from the main jet stream, and will meander over the same areas for days until they can get caught up in it again.

The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has numerous rain gauges across Central Texas that report on rainfall. And over the past 5 days, there have been some impressive totals across our region.

Estimated and confirmed rainfall totals for the Hill Country
Estimated and confirmed rainfall totals for the Austin metro
Estimated and confirmed rainfall totals for the Hill Country

While many areas were under a severe weather threat, as well as a flash flooding threat, most areas were sparred any damages from the weather. But what we did get were some healthy, beneficial rains.

Heading into the month of May, some areas across Central Texas were in a rainfall deficit for not only the month of April, but for the whole year of 2021. Austin Mabry is one location that had a deficit of up to 2.6 inches on Sunday, April 25, and now has a surplus of rain of 0.37 (as of Monday May 3rd).

The drought monitor below is from last Thursday morning, before we received most of the heavy rains. While we do expect to see major improvements in the drought, it’s likely it won’t be eliminated completely.

Drought update from the morning of 4/29/2021

The reason we might still have improved, but remaining, drought conditions is because of the duration of our current drought. While areas like Austin Mabry have a surplus of rain, it’s a small one at that. Other locations like Austin Bergstrom are still in a deficit of rain of over 1.2 inches, and that’s after receiving close to 4 inches since last week.

While some areas have a yearly surplus of rain, our current drought goes back to the end of last year, where many areas ended the year 2020 in a rainfall deficit.

Last week’s heavy rains were exactly what we needed, and were a welcome sight for many. However, we will need at least one or two more similar rainfall events to securely bring us all out of the drought.

As of Monday May 3rd, both Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan were not only full, but rising as well. Lake Travis level rose close to 2.5 feet since rains began last Thursday.

Lake levels as of Monday May 3rd

Make sure to check in with KXAN this Thursday to see the new, updated drought monitor that will include the impacts of last week’s rains.

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