Drought conditions continue across the High Plains despite recent snowfall

Weather

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Snow covered many parts of Texas on Sunday. From the Basin to East Texas, and from Central Texas to the High Plains.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Amarillo said it had reports of about 3 inches across the city.

“So, decent, little snowfall, especially for early January, and the best part about it, you know, you could drive on the roads,” said Mark Fox, the meteorologist in charge at the NWS Amarillo office.

Though the snow may have appeared to be a lot, it was hardly anything in terms of moisture.

“With the three and a half or so inches of snow that we had here … that really only accounted for about a quarter-inch of moisture in the rain gauge,” said Fox.

Fox said we are in a serious drought across most of the area, and though this weekend’s snowfall helped, it is not going to kick us out of the drought.

“Over the last couple of months, though we have been in a drought, we only had a little over a foot of rain last year. So somewhere between 12 and 15 inches across the region. Normally, we’re supposed to be up there around 23 – 24. So we’re starting out about 10 inches below normal for the last 12 months or so, and we would have to go 10 to 12 inches above normal to get back to normal,” said Fox.

This means we are shaping up for a tough wildfire season.

“We are still looking very hard with fire season coming through because we still only are around an inch or so, maybe a little bit less than that, for the year. Obviously just starting the year, but January is a very dry month historically anyway,” said Fox.

KAMR Local 4 News’ Chief Meteorologist John Harris agreed.

“We need to keep the snows coming,” said John. “We need to get the rain in here from time to time, but when you look at that temporary climate condition known as La Nina, it doesn’t bode well for us. And so the wildfire threat could be above normal this year.”

Fox said two areas are looking worse than others. He said Anywhere from Dallam and Hartley Counties down into Deaf Smith County is very, very dry. He said the same goes for Collingsworth and Wheeler Counties.

“Everybody else is still, you know, not great but those are the worst areas, the far west and our far southeast,” said Fox.

“All indications are it is going to be dry as we travel through the remainder of January, February, into March, and until we get into the spring rains, and that wildfire season is going to loom large over this part of the world, which is unfortunate,” John said. “And hopefully we, you know, even though we are where we are, hopefully, do get some moisture in here.”

Though we did not see much moisture out of the event, John said to be glad we see any at all.

“This part of the world is not known for substantial rainfall, substantial snowfall. When we get those seasons, rejoice because they don’t happen very often,” said John.


NWS Radar Upgrades:

The radar at NWS Amarillo was down during our winter weather event for a scheduled upgrade. The NWS said the upgrade has been scheduled for a year, and every NEXRAD radar in the country will be going through the process.

Fox said the current radar has been operational since 1992, and by the end of the week, they will basically have a brand new radar.

“The only thing that are still original are going to be the scaffolding, the tower that’s actually holding everything up, and the dome that surrounding it. If this was your car Judd, we would be taking out the engine, we would be taking out the computer system, we’d be taking out the upholstery of the tires, everything would be replaced except for the actual chassis,” said Fox.

Fox said they were flying a little blind during the storm because of the upgrade process, but just like during an outage, they relied on the NWS office in Lubbock and in Albuquerque to fill in the gaps.

“We have other surrounding radars, we have very good satellite systems, which were giving us information between one and five minutes all weekend long. We also had surface observations all across the area, we had our spotter network, we had other offices, spotter networks, just like anything else with one thing goes down, you’ve got built-in backups that you’re using to the best of your ability. And it’s what we did this weekend,” said Fox.


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