Houston’s Only Natural Beauty at Risk Due to Drought

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I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could! Houston is a great city to live in, but it sure is different than the small town in Alabama I grew up in. I have to admit it took me a while to learn my way around, but after living here for several years I know it like the back of my hand. One of the best things about Houston is all of the parks and recreational areas we have. My favorite open spaces here are Hermann Park and Discovery Green.  The best perk about the parks is their natural beauty—the trees to be more specific! I also love driving through parts of River Oaks and the Museum District just for the scenery.

Houston Museum District. Photo: destination360.com

The Houstonian. Photo: Fred Rogers

With the ongoing drought in Texas the trees here are definitely in trouble. The Houston area is currently in an exceptional drought and we’re 17.35 inches below normal this year in terms of rainfall.

A large portion of Texas is either in extreme or exceptional drought. Image: U.S. Drought Monitor

Area lakes are also being hit hard. The past two weekends I’ve spent on a boat on Lake Conroe and I’ve noticed a significant difference in the water levels. On Sunday I even saw an exposed sandbar in the middle of the lake with a person standing on it! This definitely isn’t normal, especially since the water barely came up to their knees. Imagine your boat getting stuck on it. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they were wading around in the shallow water in the first place? Lake Conroe’s water levels are currently at 198.10 feet above sea level, which is approximately 2.9 feet lower-than-normal.

One end of Lake Conroe (Conroe, Texas). Photo: lake-conroe.net

As you can see we desperately need the rain, especially if we start seeing more wildfires in Texas and it takes a bigger toll on our vegetation. Experts say that without substantial rain in the next few weeks the effects of this year’s drought may greatly and permanently reduce the area’s green canopy starting in about five years. To put into perspective how bad the drought actually is, throughout the month of May the Houston area only received 0.19 inches of rain. Typically we would get about 5.11 inches during the month and so far June hasn’t been any better with really no measurable rainfall. According to the Trees for Houston, the city stands to lose millions of trees due to the drought.

The lack of rain is putting stress on the trees, but also the above average temperatures we’ve been seeing. Near record high temperatures are expected through Sunday with highs in the upper 90’s to near 100F.

Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

The extended weather outlook for the early to middle part of next week calls for a major pattern change as strong upper level high pressure, which has been parked over the Southern Plains from Kansas to Texas over the past several months, makes a temporary move toward the southeast U.S. The flow pattern around the high pressure area will allow tropical moisture to surge northward from the western Gulf of Mexico across much of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. Right now it’s a little too early to tell how much rain may fall next week, but conditions are looking more favorable for more widespread thunderstorm activity over this region. In addition, there are signs a weak tropical low pressure area may try and develop as well over the western Gulf of Mexico during the middle to latter part of next week. If the low pressure area does develop, we could see even more rain focus northward toward the northwest Gulf Coast from Texas through Louisiana.

As of right now there’s a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms on Tuesday with a 30-40% chance on Wednesday and Thursday. I guess a chance of rain is better than no chance at all!

For water tips and more information about the millions of trees at stake here in Houston visit the Houston Chronicle.

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