AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – After instances of rainy weather across the High Plains in the last few weeks, especially in the wake of storms that flooded roads and downed power lines on Wednesday, it could seem that the area’s record-setting drought conditions have started to improve. In fact, citing the rain, some called the burn bans and fireworks restrictions in areas like Amarillo into question.
What would be needed for the drought on the High Plains to end? How close is Amarillo to seeing the end of the ongoing fireworks bans in Potter and Randall Counties?
Drought on the High Plains
According to the United States Drought Monitor system, as of June 7, the High Plains were under mostly “severe” to “extreme” drought conditions, especially further west.
As noted in previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the region has remained under nearly-continuous drought conditions for a number of months. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) noted that in March 2022 the drought conditions even broke records, covering the largest area in Texas since 2013.
More recently, according to the US Drought monitor, those conditions had not changed significantly over the eight weeks leading up to June 7. Compared to April 12, the High Plains primarily saw either slight improvement or a slight worsening of its varied drought conditions.
Although those reports were dated before the Wednesday storms on the High Plains, KAMR Local 4 Chief Meteorologist John Harris commented that the recent rain would not likely shift the region away from its ongoing drought.
“It depends on where you live. Our eastern counties have actually had several days over the last few weeks where they’ve had a lot of rain, and so it’s helped them immensely. Right here in Amarillo, we’ve kind of missed out last night.”
Rain, but little relief
While Wednesday’s rain was the best precipitation Amarillo had seen since its March snowfall, the area was still a ways behind its normal moisture levels for the year. Further, the National Weather Service reported in its monthly drought outlook for June 2022 that it was likely that the drought conditions would persist in the High Plains.
Thunderstorms, such as those in the recent weeks on the High Plains, often bring large amounts of precipitation in a short amount of time. Because of this, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), most of the rain from thunderstorms runs off into drainage channels and streams rather than soaking into the ground.
That drainage was seen across the area Wednesday as multiple roads across the High Plains flooded, impacting traffic alongside debris and fallen power lines. Despite the vast amounts of water, as noted by the USGS, it may not have impacted the drought conditions substantially.
“A good analogy might be how medicine and illness relate to each other,” said the USGS regarding droughts, “A single dose of medicine can alleviate symptoms of illness, but it usually takes a sustained program of medication to cure an illness. Likewise, a single rainstorm will not break the drought, but it might provide temporary relief.”
The USGS said that the end of drought likely depends on consistent moisture over a period of time via “soaking rains” instead of short showers or thunderstorms. That process for those soaking rains to break the drought and return an area to its normal range of conditions could take multiple soaking rains and several months.
Fireworks in time for the Fourth of July?
Aside from the negative impacts on agriculture and the significant risk for destruction via wildfires, the drought around the High Plains recently targeted upcoming summer celebrations as well. Both Potter and Randall Counties, which cover Amarillo, recently either established or renewed burn bans and restrictions around fireworks.
While the general burn bans could vary in date, with Potter County’s expected to last until Aug. 29, both Potter and Randall Counties’ bans on fireworks were set to end on July 5. In those counties, and therefore across Amarillo, officials banned the sale, use, and discharge of fireworks.
The fireworks bans also noted that they will continue either until July 5, or until the Texas Forest Service or a County declaration concludes that drought conditions have improved past the need for a ban.
Unfortunately, as noted by Harris, the Amarillo area still had a deficit as of Wednesday of up to one and six-tenths of an inch below normal levels. Without significant change to the forecasted conditions in June, it appears unlikely that Potter or Randall County will end the fireworks ban early – which will leave community members traveling elsewhere for fireworks, or seeking other ways to celebrate the July 4 holiday.
For the latest information on weather, burn bans, and local events, check with MyHighPlains.com.