Texans are all but standing on the shores to welcome Tropical Storm Don to the drought-stricken state.
But leaders of several state agencies charged with monitoring the impact of the drought believe Don’s Texas trip may be too brief to blast the dry spell.
“Texas needs rain with a name,” Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.
“As Tropical Storm Don heads our way, Texas agriculture will be waiting with more anticipation than we usually have at the beginning of a Friday night football game. Hopefully, this will be just the kickoff of a series of rain events to break the grip of this devastating drought."
From agricultural losses to shortages in community and recreational water, the impact of extended triple-digit temperatures and historically low rainfall amounts over most of the state will not be alleviated by Don, the state officials said.
Tropical Storm Don is expected to make landfall early Saturday morning near Corpus Christi.
Generally, an area is considered in meteorological drought when it has received
75 percent or less than the usual amount of rain over a given period of time, according to Dr. Travis Miller, a member of the Texas Drought Task Force and specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
“So if an area normally gets 25 inches of rain a year but has only had 8 inches, that would put it in a drought situation,” Miller explained. “To end that, the area would need, say 9 inches of rain to come back to normal.”
Weather officials are predicting at most up to 4 inches of rain from Don in Texas, mostly in the southern Coastal Bend area. The rest of the state is expected to receive less than an inch.
“If you do the math, the good rain from this tropical storm will not last long. It could help fill some livestock tanks and help with some of the state’s lakes,” Miller said, “but the low stream flow is what is impacting so much of the state’s water resources now.”
Drought is multi-faceted, the experts say, with part of the impact stemming from a lack of moisture in the soil and part from the decrease in surface supplies.
The latter impact, called hydrological drought, takes its toll mostly on communities that are dependent on reservoirs and streams to supply water to homes and businesses.
"The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is tracking public drinking water supplies and working with communities that are depending on surface water to find alternate ways to manage, such as conservation, planning, release of stored water or drilling additional wells," said spokesperson Andrea Morrow.
Tropical Storm Don may also give some reprieve to firefighters who have battled blazes on 3.4 million acres in Texas this year, but the welcomed relief likely will be short-lived, according to Texas Forest Service spokesperson Linda Moon.
“There’s still a large portion of Texas that isn’t expected to get any residual moisture from the tropical storm,” she said. “We’re grateful for any rain we may see this weekend, but our firefighters throughout the state are prepared to continue this extended attack and see even more hot, dry weather as the summer goes on.”
Miller said Tropical Storm Don – and systems that may follow it to bring rain to the state – normally help the countryside green up within a week to 10 days after rainfall.
“But if we get 3 inches from Don and then no more the rest of the summer, we will be back in the stew,” Miller said.
While the drought of 2006 was ended by tropical storms and hurricanes, he added, weather experts are predicting a return to the moisture-short La Nina pattern this fall. That would extend the already devastating drought regardless of moisture from the hurricane season.