My apologies to anyone who celebrates a special day in March, but when it comes to weather, March is just downright rotten. Ralph Waldo Emerson described March weather as “savage and serene in an hour.” Ogden Nash once wrote, “No one relaxes in March.” And this particular March lived up to the reputation.
On the first day of March, pear trees were in bloom as we soared to a high of 80. The following day, an Arctic cold front blasted across the Red River, dropping us into the teens that night with a few snow flurries and sleet pellets. By daybreak on the 3rd of March, we had reached 12 degrees. If your Oleanders are the shade of buckskin leather right now, that’s the freeze that did it. Not a “late freeze,” though. Our average last freeze is about March 20th. What appears to be our last freeze this year was the morning of March 24th when we touched 31 degrees.
Our warmest high was 85 on March 11th. Our coldest high was 32 on March 3rd. Our warmest low was 57 on March 27th. Our coldest low was 12 on the morning of the 3rd. It all averaged out to daily highs and lows that came in more than three degrees below normal. (Give this paragraph to your third-grader and let them figure out our range of temperatures, then divide by 31 to find the average.)
Not only was March colder than normal, it was drier than normal. Not as bad as January and February, but still dry. Normal rainfall for March is well over three inches. Our total was only 1.31”. More disturbing is the worsening state of our drought. In the six months since October, Denton Municipal Airport has recorded less than 10 inches of rain; 8.88”. Our best rain was 1.31” on the 15th.
Many hardly notice a drought in winter because persistent cloud cover and cold temperatures reduce both evaporation of surface water and transpiration of plant moisture to near zero. Now that it’s warmer, the spring green-up will draw increasingly on soil moisture while evaporation rates accelerate on area lakes. Some lakes in North Texas are already at all-time lows. Many Texans over 65 liken our current drought to the “mini dust-bowl” and drought they endured in the mid 1950’s.
April is one of our wettest months. Mid-range forecasts indicate no change in our current weather regime, although some models are predicting significant rains during the first weekend of April. Let’s hope they’re right.
Just remember, this drought will end as surely as the last ones did. The only question is when. At least we’re not suffering through heat and drought with only well water and no air conditioning as our forebears did. Our primary hazards in the next few weeks will be fire danger, wind, crop loss, dust, pollen and foundation-settling.
And…severe weather season is now underway.
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist for WBAP 820/KLIF570/99.5 “The Wolf.” Read his column on Denton County weather each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.