Cold temperatures round out a wet year

Michael Hutchins Herald Democrat
Layers of ice cover rocks on the edge of Lake Texoma in Eisenhower State Park Monday afternoon. (Michael Hutchins / Herald Democrat)

Portions of Texoma received a reprieve from drought conditions following a wet and cold end to 2017, the Texas Water Development Board said Tuesday in its weekly water report. Following a break for the Christmas holiday, the water board found that 33 percent of the state remains in a state of drought. That level of drought is down from 37 percent.

“In the last week, drought continued to retreat in the east and south but expanded in Central Texas and the Panhandle,” TWDB Hydrologist Mark Wentzel said. “Extreme drought disappeared from the northeast but emerged farther west in Foard County. One-third of the state is impacted by moderate or worse drought.”

Locally, Grayson County is described as being “abnormally dry” in the latest report. In mid- to late-December, the report found that the region was experiencing a “severe drought — the third most severe of five categories used to describe drought conditions.

Neighboring Collin County saw similar improvement, with conditions described as “abnormally dry” in the latest report. Fannin County also saw improvement, but the very northeastern most portion of the county is still experiencing a “moderate drought” in the latest report. While seeing some improvement over recent weeks, Cooke County also remains in a state of moderate drought.

Despite the drier-than-average end to the year, the National Weather Service said 2017 ended up being a wet year for the region with just over 50 inches of rain recorded at a weather co-op station near the Sherman water treatment plant. Based on 30-year average, the station usually records about 43.6 inches of rainfall in any given year.

A large portion of this rainfall came in August as portions of Texoma saw 13 inches of rainfall in one month.

This includes 2.36 inches of rain that fell in the month of December, with the majority falling in the latter half of the month.

Lake Texoma also ended 2017 with high lake levels due to inflow and recent rains. By early afternoon Wednesday, the lake’s elevation stood at 617.35 feet — about 1.37 percent into its flood control pool.

NWS Senior Meteorologist Eric Martello said the region will continue to warm up over the next few days, following a cold start to 2018 that saw temperatures drop to just 12 degrees on New Year’s Day. For Thursday, Martello said temperatures will likely rise into the lower 40s and continue to rise in coming days with temperatures expected to hit the low 60s on Sunday.

Likewise, the chances for rain are expected to rise going into the weekend, Martello said. Meteorologists are expecting about a 20 percent chance for light and isolated showers Saturday, with chances rising to 40 percent Sunday morning and afternoon.

Looking into the long-term drought outlooks, the TWDB said the region likely will see persisting drought in the months to come.

“The pattern of improve drought conditions in East Texas but expansion of drought in the western half of the state is expected to continue over the next few months. By the end of March, more than half the state of Texas is expected to be in drought,” the board said in its latest report.