Don’t let the rain in this week’s forecast fool you: Dallas-Fort Worth is mired in a severe drought for the first time in years, and weather experts say there’s no end in sight.
From March through July, meteorologists say, North Texas suffered through the second-driest period since weather records began 120 years ago.
And while this week will bring some much-needed rain — which could begin Tuesday evening and last into the weekend — it won’t put much of a dent in the historic dry spell, said Brian James, a meteorologist with KXAS-TV (NBC5).
“After February, Mother Nature’s water faucet turned off,” James said. “The storm system headed our way will not be enough, but will get us back on track.”
James said rainfall is always welcome in August, a notoriously dry month in North Texas.
“Could we get a month’s worth of August rainfall in the next week? Yes,” he said. “Will it pull us out of the drought completely? No.”
For now, it’s primarily an agricultural drought, meaning there’s not enough moisture to sustain crops, NBC5 chief meteorologist Rick Mitchell said.
But Texas farms aren’t alone in their misery. Also suffering are North Texas lawns and foundations, which tend to shift and crack when the soil gets this dry.
And that means big business for foundation repair firms.
Greg Roberts, the owner and president of HD Foundations in Dallas, said the drought has brought in “astronomical business.” His company has doubled its numbers and even hired two new crews to keep up with the demand.
“The drought is the main driving force behind all this foundation repair in our business,” he said. “I don’t see much of an end to it until November or December.”
Roberts, who studied soils at Texas A&M University, said the clay soil across North Texas expands and contracts as it heats up and dries out. If a crack forms, it can damage doors, locks and even plumbing.
“I predict one in three homes in the metroplex are affected,” he said. “It’s a multitude of problems.”
Regan Sparks, the manager of Power Jack Foundation Repair in Dallas, said a lot of their business comes from people who don’t water their foundation and are therefore left with big cracks.
“People think it’s a problem with the system we install,” she said. “People don’t know what they ought to be doing to maintain it and keep it from shifting.”
According to Texas A&M, homeowners can protect their homes by planting and watering plants around the foundation, creating a dedicated irrigation zone around the house and attaching drip irrigation or hoses to an outdoor faucet with a timer.
North Texas has seen just 7 inches of rain from March through July. The bulk of this year’s rain fell at the end of February. Rain levels put the Dallas-Fort Worth area into a Level 3 drought, or “extreme.” Areas in eastern Dallas County, however, are in a milder “moderate” drought.
According to a map the U.S. drought monitor released last week, around 80 percent of the state is “abnormally dry,” and 36 percent of Texas is in a state of “severe drought.”
The drought is affecting around 16.2 million Texans, or about 62 percent of the state’s population.
Around this time last year, just 26 percent of the state was “abnormally dry,” and not even 1 percent was in a state of “severe drought.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Bianca Villanueva said the last time North Texas faced a major drought was in 2011, but this drought is not in the same league.
Mitchell called it a “blip on the radar” when compared to other massive dry spells.
When it comes to water consumption, the current drought holds little weight — some high residential water bills notwithstanding.
According to the North Texas Municipal Water District, lake levels for the district’s wholesale water supply are all nearly full.
From three months ago, however, the aggregate amount of water in the Trinity River basin lakes has dropped from 99.7 to 91.1 percent. The difference adds up to more than 193 billion gallons of water.
“Our clients have not yet seen an impact,” said spokeswoman Kathleen Vaught. “However, we can always benefit from some solid rain days.”
And that’s exactly what’s in forecast through the weekend, with rain chances between 20 percent and 60 percent.
By the time the rain lets up, some spots could see up to 3 inches. Other areas may only get a trace, but every little bit helps.
Either way, the drought will still be firmly entrenched, probably until the summer is long gone.
“There’s long-term hope for rain,” Mitchell said. “El Niño should bring a wetter-than-normal winter.”