Last year was a record-breaker not only for rain but for tornadoes.
And as winter gives way to spring, weather experts suggest that North Texas could once again be subject to severe storms and flooding.
In the Fort Worth area, the first round of severe weather is expected to arrive as early as Monday. If the rain sticks around as some forecast models suggest, flooding could become a problem later in the week.
It is March. It is time for spring storms.
Dan Huckaby, National Weather Service meteorologist
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“It is March,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Huckaby. “It is time for spring storms.”
Texas saw a record 240 confirmed tornadoes in 2015, beating the previous record of 232 set in 1995 and 1967.
The 46-county region covered by the National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office reported a record 76 confirmed tornadoes, beating the 73 tornadoes in 1994 and the most since modern-day records started being kept in 1950. The average number of tornadoes in North Texas is 26.
Last year included the Dec. 26 tornadoes across Dallas, Ellis and Collin counties that killed 13 people — the deadliest outbreak for North Texas in 90 years. There was also saw a rare Nov. 5 tornado in Fort Worth.
“What I try to emphasize in seasonal outlooks is that even if there is a season that’s not particularly busy, all it takes is one tornado that hits in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Huckaby said. “That’s what is remembered.”
Grab the umbrellas
The rain, well it was plentiful too, with a record 62.61 inches falling at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in 2015.
And even though the start of 2016 has been mostly dry, the three-month outlook by the Climate Prediction Center for March, April and May shows a slight chance of above normal precipitation.
I think it will be a wet spring just because of the next 10 days.
State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon
State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon expects a wet spring, especially during the first half of the season.
“I think it will be wet spring just because of the next 10 days,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “You’ve got really wet storm system that looks like it’s going to park itself over Texas and New Mexico. It will probably start off with a severe threat but as it goes on, the instability will go away and it will just become a soaker. It wouldn’t surprise me if some parts of Texas saw 5 inches and a few places saw closer to a foot of rain.”
Forecast: There’s a 50 percent chance of rain on Monday, increasing to 70 percent Monday night and Tuesday. Rain chances will continue throughout the week.
The Tarrant Regional Water District, which supplies raw water to almost all of Tarrant County, is preparing for another busy season, said David Marshall, director of TRWD’s Engineering and Operations Support.
“I’m expecting a very wet spring, with April-May floods,” Marshall said. “The intensity and the increase in reservoir elevations is a roll of the dice, but I feel our folks will be doing a lot of around-the-clock monitoring this spring.”
The water district’s lakes — Eagle Mountain Lake, Lake Bridgeport, Cedar Creek and Richland-Chambers — are all full. Most other area reservoirs, including Lake Arlington, Lake Worth, Lake Benbrook, Lake Grapevine, Lake Lewisville, Lake Granbury and Joe Pool Lake are full or close to the conservation level.
Last year’s heavy rains brought floods across the Dallas-Fort Worth, as rivers left their banks and lakes overflowed, closing streets, forcing evacuations and causing millions of dollars in damage.
I’m expecting a very wet spring, with April- May floods.
David Marshall, TRWD’s Director of Engineering and Operations Support
Looking back at 1957-58
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service have been comparing 2015-2016 with 1957-1958.
In 1957, a wet spring brought an end to the record-breaking drought of the 1950s. That year, 50.49 inches were recorded. In 1958, only 2.54 inches fell during the first two months, but 14.12 inches fell in March and April.
Last year’s wet spring brought an end to another drought across the region and much of the state.
This year, 3.24 inches have fallen at DFW Airport, which is 1.77 inches below normal.
“So far, 1958 has been a pretty good analogue,” Huckaby said. “We still have pretty strong El Niño conditions out in the Pacific. We should see a wetter than normal spring at least in the short term.”
El Niño conditions occur when there are above normal sea surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America, which tend to bring wetter than normal weather to Texas.
The Climate Prediction Center’s weekly El Niño update predicts the weather phenomenon should end by summer.
There’s a chance it will could be replaced by it sister phenomenon, La Niña, where Pacific water temperatures cool and keep the rain away from Texas.
“A transition back to drought over the next year is probably more likely than not but it’s not the bleak outlook we were looking at several years ago,” Huckaby said.
A warm winter
While El Niño brought a record-breaking year of wet weather and tornadoes, it also brought one of the warmest winters on record.
27degrees was the coldest temperature recorded this winter, on Jan. 18 and 23.
The meteorological winter, which runs from December through February, was the fourth warmest on record at DFW Airport.
There were 17 days where freezing temperatures were recorded at DFW Airport. The lowest temperature was 27 degrees, on Jan. 18 and 23.
Even though Easter cold snaps are a staple around North Texas, no late winter weather is on the horizon.
The average last freeze for North Texas is March 13, and Huckaby said the Dallas-Fort Worth area may have seen its last one for awhile.
Spring officially begins March 20.
“It’s unlikely that we’ll see another freeze in the DFW area but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a freeze just outside of the Metroplex where there isn’t the urban heat island,” Huckaby said. “That said, I wouldn’t start my spring planting just yet.”
DFW winter: 2015-16
Telling statistics from Dec. 1 through Feb. 29 (meteorological winter) recorded at DFW Airport.
It was warm: Tied for fourth warmest on record with average temperature of 51.9. The record was 53.1 in 1999-2000.
17 freezes: Tied for sixth fewest.
Trace of snow: Least amount since 2005-2006.
27 degree: Coldest temperature of the season on January 18 and 23.
31 days: When temperatures were 70 degrees or warmer. The record was 35 days in 1906-07.
7.07: Inches of rainfall, which was 0.27 inches below normal.