Fort Worth

Drought loosens its grip on Texas

The repeated rain-producing thunderstorms over the last month delivered a pretty good blow to the drought.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows that 35 percent of the state is still in drought, down from 40 percent a week ago.

None of the state is in exceptional drought, the most serious category, noted by maroon splotches on the drought map. It’s the first time for that since July 17, 2012, State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said.

“The last time this small of an area of the state was in drought was Nov. 9, 2010,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “You have to go all the way back to April 2010 for the last time the state was actually free of drought.”

West of Fort Worth, Palo Pinto and Young counties, which had been stuck in exceptional drought, improved dramatically over the last week.

They’re still in severe drought, but conditions are trending wet. Lake Palo Pinto, which was down 20 feet April 18, made a remarkable climb over the last month. After the weekend rains, the lake filled and water was running over the spillway Thursday.

“We’re so fortunate to be out of this for a while,” said Scott Blasor, secretary-treasurer for Palo Pinto Municipal Water District No. 1, which owns the lake and supplies water to Mineral Wells and several other small towns.

Earlier this year, the water district was working to build a reverse-osmosis plant to take more water out of the Brazos River, with fears that Lake Palo Pinto could run dry.

Those concerns are gone for now, but Blasor said the shallow lake could drop again in 2 to 21/2 years if the drought returns. Should that happen, officials would likely continue building the plant so it can be ready in 60 days if the lake sinks to a dangerously low level.

So is the drought over for Dallas-Fort Worth? Dan Huckaby, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that depends on where you live.

“Certainly from Dallas eastward, I would say it is,” Huckaby said. “But you still have got some hydrological issues for Tarrant County and some points westward.”

After last week’s steady rainfall, the National Drought Mitigation Center noted that “the greatest precipitation amounts were recorded in Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Texas, with widespread areas of 8-10 inches of rain.”

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram