Ralph Waldo Emerson described March weather as “savage and serene in one hour.” March is a frustrating month with frequent drastic swings in weather as we wait impatiently for spring to begin. And this March had its share of spring-like days that turned into late-winter conditions.
At this writing, we can estimate March temperatures were at least 3 degrees cooler than average. Rainfall had reached 2.6” by March 23. Presuming two more rains adding another combined inch to our totals, March rainfall will have been slightly above its historic average of about 3 inches. March was also a typically windy month. Only one day in March so far, had an average daytime wind speed under 10 mph. All the rest averaged at least 10-15 mph with several days in the 25-30 mph range.
Snowfalls on March 20 ran from a trace in western Denton County to nearly 3” on the eastern border with Collin County. Since the snow fell on the first day and night of spring, it raised an interesting question: Does the snowfall of March 20 and 21 “count” toward a potential record snowfall in North Texas? The Weather Service recognizes that snow can occur in North Texas from November to April. For that reason, the snowfall record runs from July 1 to June 30. The record “seasonal” snowfall for DFW is 17.6 inches in 1977-78. We are currently at 17.1 inches. It could happen.
The El Nino continues. Warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures in the Pacific lead us to expect April will be somewhat cooler and wetter than normal – revealing what is likely our greatest threat this coming severe weather season. Certainly tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail can all be deadly but the greatest risk in North Texas is likely to be flooding.
Flash flooding is most common because of the frequency of brief heavy storms in April and May. But traditional river and stream flooding is even more of a threat, particularly this year, because of the roughly 25 inches of rain we’ve received since September. Soft ground means water tables are high and still seeping into rivers and streams increasing stream-flows.
Meanwhile, most area lakes in North Texas and Oklahoma are already at or above conservation levels.
A prolonged heavy rain outbreak of 3-6” over a couple nights or a monstrous 7-inch thunderstorm in the watershed could set irreversible events into motion. Rapid rises in area lakes could breach spillways or force emergency releases, quickly flooding rivers, creeks and other reservoirs downstream. And just one or two such events could leave North Texas on the edge of flooding for weeks or even months this spring until we dry out this summer.
If you live in a flood plain or flood-prone area, double-check to make sure your flood insurance is current and do what you can now to clear drainage and be ready to move livestock and property out of low lying areas.
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for WBAP 820 AM and 96.7 FM. He also hosts a local website; www.bradsweather.com.