AUSTIN (KXAN) — A consistent string of passing upper-level, low-pressure systems has been wringing out tropical moisture from the skies over the past few weeks. This pattern, unlike any we have seen in years, has dropped a few months’ worth of rain in just a two-week period. We’ve shown you just how dramatically how the storms over Texas have been filling thirsty bodies of water. Experts have indicated the recent rains ended the worst of a years-old Texas drought; for the first time since mid-2012, Texas is no longer in the “exceptional drought” category — the most dire of five drought designations.
As of Friday, a rise of another few inches in Lake Travis’ level overnight brings us to the fullest we’ve seen the lake since mid-April 2013. The lake will likely continue to rise slowly through the next 24 hours, as inflows from the Pedernales River continue.
The first public boat ramp to open usually does so when Travis tops 630 feet elevation, but officials are waiting for a couple more inches to make the official decision. We will continue to follow this closely and inform you when public ramp access is again available to the lake.
Most of our metro and eastern communities have picked up between 2 and 5 inches of rain since the beginning of May. There have even been a few rain gauges from Central Travis County, northern Bastrop County and Lee County that have seen 5 to 8 inches of rain, even an isolated spot or two that saw more than 10 inches during that time span.
These areas have not been in a drought status for a little while now, and with this latest pattern, likely won’t be for a while. Meanwhile, Hill Country locations, where moderate- to extreme drought conditions linger, also did fairly well with rainfall.
Contrary to recent trends, the Highland Lakes chain and the rest of the Hill Country have piled up 2 to 4 inches of rainfall, with a couple of spots hitting the 5-inch mark. Yes, this will assist in knocking back drought conditions a bit in these areas, but certainly will not eliminate them. What the recent rainfall will do is brighten the future for the Highland Lakes, which are still only about 39 percent full.
Rain from the past few weeks has only added less than a foot to our very low lake levels. However, they have set the stage for a promising finish to the month. The soil in the Hill Country is now saturated, which means any additional rainfall in the coming weeks could have a large impact on boosting the amount of water in the Highland Lakes.
Those water levels in turn could help lower Austin’s current water restrictions, which are directly correlated with lake levels. Austin is currently under Stage 2 water restrictions, but may fall to Stage 1 with a jump in the inflow to the Highland Lakes. Stage 1 water restrictions would allow residents to water two days a week where as watering is currently limited to a single day a week.
The good news for those still in drought conditions, and for the lakes, is this abnormally wet weather pattern is forecast to continue for at least the next few weeks.