Drought map

The U.S. Drought Map shows lingering severe drought in McLennan County, based on a variety of factors observed early this week.

Never mind the toadstools and mud puddles, and the rain gauges showing several inches of rain this week.

Waco is still officially in severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks drought conditions such as soil moisture and river flow as well as rainfall.

But that could change with a new weeklong round of rainfall from the remnants of a Pacific storm blowing in from Mexico, National Weather Service forecasters said.

After a chance of rain Friday night, thunderstorms are expected to dominate Saturday, followed by high rain chances Sunday.

“The main event is going to be (Saturday) into (Saturday) night,” said Daniel Huckaby, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “During the day there will be a lot of rain and thunderstorms. Any outdoor plans would be adversely affected.”

Sunday night, the remains of the tropical depression, Sergio, will then circle clockwise across the Great Plains and boomerang back to Texas, causing unseasonably chilly, wet weather through the week.

Temperatures could plummet from a high of 84 Sunday to a low of 48 Sunday night, according to the weather service forecast.

Highs are forecast to be in the 50s through Wednesday, with rain chances continuing through the week.

“We might not see 60 degrees until Thursday,” Huckaby said. “The normal highs this time of year would be around 80s. To be in the mid-50s is well below normal.”

Huckaby said there’s hope for removal of the drought designation with the continuing rainfall expected. McLennan and Falls counties were shown as being in “severe drought” in the drought monitor map released Thursday, based on Tuesday conditions. Since then, more rain has fallen, bringing the total for the week and for October so far up to 3.72 inches.

That’s 2.4 inches more than the normal amount for the month to date.

September was also unusually wet, with 4.9 inches, 1.84 inches more than normal, based on readings at Waco Regional Airport.

Still, Waco remains 8.45 inches short of normal rainfall for the year to date, with 18.23 inches recorded.

Shane McLellan, Agrilife extension agent for McLennan County, said the moisture picture is mixed.

Many farmers are seeing their winter crops of oats or rye off to a good start, and others are preparing to make a healthy last cutting of hay.

Many stock raisers are seeing a flush of green forage.

But the rainfall of the last month has been spotty, McLellan said.

“There are certain areas that still haven’t gotten much rain, like from Moody to just south of West. … There’s a lot of areas that still haven’t had big rains to fill up stock tanks, while other people have mushrooms in their yards,” he said.

The roller-coaster weather patterns of this summer and fall have also led to armyworm infestations that have decimated grass and young grain crops, offsetting the benefit of the late rains, he said.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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