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Event Details

Drought event report

Category: Drought
Observation: 16.05.2011
Continent: North-America
Country: USA
State: State of Mexico
Area:
Location: Region of Brownsville
Severity: Hight
Event details
When Suzanne French sees rains clouds rolling in, she and her husband get excited. They hope the clouds will be the ones that bring much-needed rain to their Los Fresnos farm. "Every time we see the dark clouds coming in from Brownsville, or from the West or even the south part of the Island, we think, ‘Yes, come on, you can make it,’" French said. "Yes, we pray for the rain." French and her husband, Bud Cooke, operate Acacia Farms, which grows salad greens, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and other greens. It also has citrus and other fruit trees. They have been commercial farmers for the past few years and have never seen the drought as bad as it is now. "We usually don’t depend on the rainfall for the vegetables because we usually don’t get a lot of rain during the growing season anyway. But this year, if we weren’t part of the Bayview Irrigation, we would not be able to afford to farm," French said. When rain doesn’t come, the couple has to flood their farmland with irrigation water, which gets expensive, French said. It costs about $500 every time flooding is needed. No measurable rain has fallen on the farm since February. "This is our livelihood," French said. So, when the profits aren’t coming in, "We just cut back in areas that we can and hope for a better year, next year." The lack of rain in the Rio Grande Valley is making this one of the driest seasons since records have been kept; in some spots, it is the driest since the 19th century. The last time Brownsville experienced such drought was in the 1920s, said Alfredo Vega, a meteorological technician with the National Weather Service in Brownsville. Still, he said, drought conditions aren’t that unusual. The area experienced a similar situation in the late 1990s, just not as bad. The latest drought monitor indicates conditions in South Texas have gotten worse in the past week. Cameron and Willacy counties are now listed as experiencing extreme drought conditions, while Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata counties are designated as having exceptional conditions, Vega said. The drought is courtesy of the La Nina system, which has kept storms away over the past six months. La Nina is opposite of El Nino, which tends to bring wetter than normal conditions. Prior to La Nina’s arrival, the area experienced rain and tropical activity last summer. "As soon as La Nina started to affect the area in September, the water was just completely shut off and the dry conditions came in," Vega said. The drought has prompted the Brownsville Public Utilities Board to ask residents not to pump water from the resacas to irrigate their lawns. PUB said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is considering limiting water rights on a priority basis because of the severe drought in the state. Even Gov. Rick Perry’s plea last month that Texans pray three days in a row for rain failed to reach the ears of the rain gods. Dry conditions have prompted many farmers to forgo planting this spring because there was not enough moisture in the ground, Vega said. Still, a small break from the ongoing drought may be coming soon, Vega said. It appears that La Nina may be weakening and may enter more neutral conditions, which could lead to rain in coming months. "It will probably happen when we get something coming in, some sea breeze or tropical activity coming in from the Gulf," Vega said. Strong thunderstorms swept through the Valley on Sunday, dumping as much as 2 to 3 inches of rain in Willacy County, the weather service reported. Cameron County and southern Hidalgo County saw about a tenth of an inch. But those rains will not do much to ease current drought conditions, the weather service said. Sunday’s rains combined with isolated showers on Thursday brought the first measurable rainfall in Cameron County since the first week of March, NWS meteorologist Greg Flatt said. "Any rain is welcome. But any rain falling right now is not going to have much effect on the overall drought status that is in place now," NWS meteorologist Ryan Vipond said Sunday. Flatt said, "We’re not out of the woods yet."
Event map:
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