Thanks to the storm that brought rain on Friday, March 20 (the first day of spring 2015) and Saturday, March 21, beneficial rain flowed into area gauges. Here’s a look at storm totals, as calculated by the Lower Colorado River Authority (highest total highlighted in green):
Eastern counties, including Caldwell, Lee, Bastrop and Fayette:
Metro counties, including Williamson, Travis and Hays:
Hill Country, including San Saba, Lampasas, Mason, Llano, Burnet, Gillespie and Blanco counties:
Here’s a look at storm totals for Camp Mabry and Austin Bergstrom International Airport in the city of Austin:
The NEW weekly U.S. Drought Monitor update will roll out on Thursday, March 26th, but as it currently stands, there have been big improvements in the drought for Travis, Bastrop, Lee, Milam, Williamson and Fayette counties. In fact, the “dominant impacts” line across the U.S. has crawled westward in previous weeks thanks to a wet January and wet first half of March, including only the Hill Country in Central Texas now. Unfortunately, Gillepsie County still registers “Exceptional” drought, the most severe type. It’s followed closely by southern halves of Mason and Llano counties, with “Extreme” drought characteristics.
The Hill Country has been excluded from many recent Central Texas rains, due to its increased elevation, which can shift weather patterns. Rain totals from this recent storm system were high enough that small portions of the Hill Country’s drought will likely be chipped away, especially if this wet March pattern continues. The first areas to see improvement will likely be the eastern edge of the Hill Country, in Lampasas, Burnet and Blanco counties. The KXAN First Warning Weather Team will continue to monitor this progress.
Recent rains of up to 2.5″ in the Highland Lake inflow region are not having a significant impact on lake levels, and the level of Lake Travis as we head into summer is currently lower than it was during previous years of the ongoing drought.
Lake Travis may see continued (only minor) rises through the next two days as inflows from creeks and rivers continue.
Where the lake levels go from here of course depends on rainfall frequency, amount, and geographical distribution. Here are the latest projections from LCRA hydrologists for the various scenarios:
On the official last day of winter, March 19, 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its spring 2015 flood outlook, which includes far eastern portions of Central Texas, such as Bastrop, Lee, Caldwell and Fayette counties. Here’s what NOAA had to say:
Risk of moderate flooding for parts of central and
eastern United States
No drought relief in sight for California, Nevada or Oregon this spring
March 19, 2015
According to NOAA’s Spring Outlook released today, rivers in western New York and eastern New England have the greatest risk of spring flooding in part because of heavy snowpack coupled with possible spring rain. Meanwhile, widespread drought conditions are expected to persist in California, Nevada, and Oregon this spring as the dry season begins.
“Periods of record warmth in the West and not enough precipitation during the rainy season cut short drought-relief in California this winter and prospects for above average temperatures this spring may make the situation worse,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch,NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
NOAA’s Spring Outlook identifies areas at risk of spring flooding and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought from April through June. The Spring Outlook provides emergency managers, water managers, state and local officials, and the public with valuable information so they will be prepared to take action to protect life and property.
Spring Outlook 2015. (Credit: NOAA)
Record snowfall and unusually cold temperatures in February through early March retained a significant snowpack across eastern New England and western New York raising flood concerns. Significant river ice across northern New York and northern New England increase the risk of flooding related to ice jams and ice jam breakups. Rivers in these areas are expected to exceed moderate flood levels this spring if there is quick warm up with heavy rainfall.
There is a 50 percent chance of exceeding moderate flood levels in small streams and rivers in the lower Missouri River basin in Missouri and eastern Kansas which typically experience minor to moderate flooding during the spring. This flood potential will be driven by rain and thunderstorms.
Moderate flooding has occurred in portions of the Ohio River basin, including the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers from melting snow and recent heavy rains. This has primed soils and streams for flooding to persist in Kentucky, southern Illinois, and southwest Indiana with the typical heavy spring rains seen in this area.
Minor river flooding is possible from the Gulf Coast through the Ohio River Valley and into the Southeast from Texas eastward and up the coast to Virginia. The upper Midwest eastward to Michigan has a low risk of flooding thanks to below normal snowfall this winter. Though, heavy rainfall at any time can lead to flooding, even in areas where overall risk is considered low.
El Niño finally arrived in February, but forecasters say it’s too weak and too late in the rainy season to provide much relief for California which will soon reach its fourth year in drought.
Drought is expected to persist in California, Nevada, and Oregon through June with the onset of the dry season in April. Drought is also forecast to develop in remaining areas of Oregon and western Washington. Drought is also likely to continue in parts of the southern Plains.
Forecasters say drought improvement or removal is favored for some areas in the Southwest, southern Rockies, southern Plains, and Gulf Coast while drought development is more likely in parts of the northern Plains, upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes where recent dryness and an outlook of favored below average precipitation exist.
Current water supply forecasts and outlooks in the western U.S. range from near normal in the Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, and Upper Colorado, to, much below normal in California, the southern Rockies, and portions of the Great Basin.
If the drought persists as predicted in the Far West, it will likely result in an active wildfire season, continued stress on crops due to low reservoir levels, and an expansion of water conservation measures. More information about drought can be found at www.drought.gov.
Above-average temperatures are favored this spring across the Far West, northern Rockies, and northern Plains eastward to include parts of the western Great Lakes, and for all of Alaska. Below normal temperatures are most likely this spring for Texas and nearby areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
For precipitation, odds favor drier than average conditions for parts of the northern Plains, upper Mississippi Valley, western Great Lakes, and Pacific Northwest. Above average precipitation is most likely for parts of the Southwest, southern and central Rockies, Texas, Southeast, and east central Alaska. Hawaii is favored to be warmer than average with eastern areas most likely wetter than average this spring.
Now is the time to become weather-ready during NOAA’s Spring Weather Safety Campaign which runs from March to June and offers information on hazardous spring weather — tornadoes, floods, thunderstorm winds, hail, lightning, heat, wildfires, and rip currents — and tips on how to stay safe.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.
FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING
A SLOW MOVING COLD FRONT WILL INTERACT WITH A DEEP PLUME OF MOISTURE TO PRODUCE MULTIPLE ROUNDS OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ACROSS SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING. LOW WATER CROSSINGS AND AREAS PRONE TO FLOODING WILL BE AT RISK OF BEING IMPACTED WITH ROADS POSSIBLY IMPASSABLE IN SOME LOCATIONS. THE HEAVIEST RAINFALL IS EXPECTED THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING. THE RISK FOR HEAVY RAINFALL AND FLASH FLOODING WILL DIMINISH SATURDAY EVENING.
DETAILS: * WIDESPREAD 2 TO 4 INCHES OF RAINFALL WITH ISOLATED TOTALS OF 6 TO 7 INCHES FROM MULTIPLE ROUNDS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. * RAPID RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL LIKELY RESULT IN FLASH FLOODING OF CREEKS AND STREAMS...LOW WATER CROSSINGS...AND URBAN AREAS NORMALLY SUBJECT TO FLOODING. RECENT RAINFALL ALONG AND EAST OF INTERSTATE 35 OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS HAS LED TO SATURATED SOILS WHICH MAY CAUSE FLASH FLOODING TO OCCUR WITH LESS RAINFALL THAN USUAL...POSING AN ELEVATED THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY. WHAT TO DO: A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS FLASH FLOODING IS POSSIBLE IN OR NEAR THE WATCH AREA. IF YOU ARE IN THE WATCH AREA...PLAN NOW FOR WHAT YOU WILL DO IF FLASH FLOODING DEVELOPS. STAY INFORMED AND BE READY TO ACT IF YOU SEE FLOODING OR IF A FLASH FLOOD WARNING IS ISSUED.
911 PM CDT THU MAR 19 2015 ...HEAVY RAINFALL LIKELY FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH LATE SATURDAY... .A SLOW MOVING COLD FRONT WILL INTERACT WITH A DEEP PLUME OF PACIFIC MOISTURE TO PRODUCE MULTIPLE ROUNDS OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ACROSS SOUTH CENTRAL TEXAS LATE FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH EARLY SATURDAY EVENING. THE HEAVIEST RAINFALL IS EXPECTED FRIDAY EVENING THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING AS AN UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE FROM MEXICO PROVIDES ADDITIONAL FORCING ALONG THE FRONT WHICH WILL BECOME NEARLY STATIONARY OVERNIGHT. DRIER CONDITIONS WILL MOVE INTO THE AREA LATE SATURDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING AS THE UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE MOVES OUT OF THE REGION.
THE FLASH FLOOD WATCH CONTINUES * FROM FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING * WIDESPREAD 2 TO 5 INCHES OF RAINFALL WITH ISOLATED TOTALS OF 6 TO 8 INCHES FROM SLOW MOVING AND TRAINING THUNDERSTORMS. * RAPID RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL LIKELY RESULT IN FLASH FLOODING OF CREEKS AND STREAMS...LOW WATER CROSSINGS...AND URBAN AREAS NORMALLY SUBJECT TO FLOODING. RECENT RAINFALL ALONG AND EAST OF INTERSTATE 35 OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS HAS LED TO SATURATED SOILS WHICH MAY CAUSE FLASH FLOODING TO OCCUR WITH LESS RAINFALL THAN USUAL...POSING AN ELEVATED THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS FLASH FLOODING IS POSSIBLE IN OR NEAR THE WATCH AREA. IF YOU ARE IN THE WATCH AREA...PLAN NOW FOR WHAT YOU WILL DO IF FLASH FLOODING DEVELOPS. STAY INFORMED AND BE READY TO ACT IF YOU SEE FLOODING OR IF A FLASH FLOOD WARNING IS ISSUED.
An approaching cold front is forecast to stall over Central Texas late Friday while a Pacific storm system sends copious amounts of moisture to Texas. The moisture will be lifted along the front, focusing heavy rain in Central Texas late Friday through the day Saturday.
David McColm Photography
A massive solar storm is bombarding Earth now, and it could supercharge the northern lights to offer a better chance of seeing dancing green auroras just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, weather permitting.
The surprisingly strong solar storm — ranked as a G4 geomagnetic storm by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center — could trigger brilliant auroras for people in dark areas as far south as Tennessee on Tuesday night if the space storm continues. The storm began at about 10 a.m. ET today.
“This is one of two severe geomagnetic storms that we have experienced during this current solar cycle,” said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center.
The G4 storm is the result of two large eruptions that left the sun on Sunday. Two huge explosions of solar plasma, known as coronal mass ejections, joined up while speeding toward Earth to create a larger solar storm. The active region on the sun that spawned the eruptions is currently rotating out of Earth’s view.
NOAA officials expect that the solar storm should continue for at least the next several hours, but these types of storms are difficult to predict.
If the storm does continue, it’s possible that people in northern Europe will have a great view of auroras tonight. United States stargazers might also be able to see the light show when darkness falls, assuming the storm continues.
Some skywatchers have already reported amazing views of the northern lights.
“We have heard of some very vivid sightings of aurora before the sun rose today,” Brent Gordon, the Space Weather Prediction Center’s space weather services branch chief, said during the teleconference. “Aurora sightings were mainly confined to the northern tier of the United States — Minnesota, Wisconsin, both North and South Dakota as well as Washington state … and of course Alaska as well.”
— Miriam Kramer, Space.com
For more of David McColm’s photography, check out his website, Twitter account and Facebook page. If you take an amazing photo of the northern lights from the March 17 geomagnetic storm and you’d to share it for a possible story or image gallery, send images and comments to Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a scene in the movie “Gattaca” in which Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman’s characters walk through a giant concentrating solar power plant spread across a broad flat California desert.
It’s a striking moment in the film, partly because it illustrates how visually imposing and vast utility-scale solar power plants can be as they sprawl across the desert.
The Ivanpah solar power installation in California. Credit: Jamey Stillings/flickr
But what if those solar power plants could be built in developed areas between or atop buildings and homes without having to impact the desert, many parts of which are environmentally sensitive? A Stanford University study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change says that can be achieved in many California’s cities, which are often overlooked as areas ideal for both utility-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar power generations.