Dallas weather: Floodwaters overtake vehicles in drought-stricken North Texas as summer rain falls in one day

DALLAS, TX — More flash flooding threatens the Dallas area after cars and trucks were inundated early Monday by sudden storms fueled by the climate crisis that knocked out parts of Texas hit by a “flash drought” this summer.

Dallas County remained under a flash flood warning until 10 a.m. Monday, as broader flood watches cover nearly 15 million people from northeast Texas to northern Louisiana and in far southern Arkansas from the same system that triggered heavy rains and flash flooding this weekend in parts of the Southwest.

Dallas received an entire summer of rain between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, with more than 7 inches, according to National Weather Service observations at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. This rate is only expected once every 50 years, on average.

Dallas also received more than 3 inches of rain in just one hour overnight — also a rainfall rate of about 1 in 50 years, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates.

Vehicles trapped in rapidly rising water around 3 a.m. on Interstate 30 in Dallas, said Cassondra Anna Mae Stewart, who filmed the dark, watery scene.

“I was able to back up a ramp to get off the freeway,” she said. “I took an alternate route home…although most of the streets are flooded there as well.”

At that time, “trained weather observers reported major flash flooding in progress across Dallas with many roads and cars submerged, including Interstate 30 to Interstate 45 near downtown Dallas,” according to a flash flood warning issued at 3:21 a.m.

Cities in Monday’s flood watch zone include Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana. The region is subject to a moderate risk — level 3 out of 4 — of excessive precipitation. Rainfall rates of 2 to 3 inches per hour have been seen as storms move slowly through the region, creating the potential for up to 3 to 5 inches of rain.

A sign of “climate boost”

The downpour in the Dallas area is accompanied by a “flash drought” that has developed in this extremely dry year across Texas. Exceptional drought – the highest designation – is present in Dallas and Tarrant counties and covers more than a quarter of the state.

“Over the past half year, rainfall deficits of 8 inches to locally over a foot have affected areas from central Texas near and south of Dallas/Fort Worth to the Gulf Coast,” said Thursday. Drought Monitor’s summary.

But those rainfall deficits will be essentially wiped out after Monday in Dallas, though large deficits will remain for other parts of Texas.

Human-caused climate change has increased the potential for this type of weather whiplash, in which dramatic fluctuations in periods of drought and heavy rainfall can occur more often.

A greater share of precipitation in recent years has come in “intense one-day events,” and the likelihood of sudden shifts from severe drought to heavy rain will become more common on a warming planet, according to scientists. Indeed, nine of the first 10 years of extreme one-day rainfall have occurred since 1996.

Rainfall over land has become more frequent and intense with each degree of warming since the 1980s. This is because warmer air can hold more water, causing storms like Hurricane Harvey, which has hit Texas in 2017, not only to produce storm surges and damaging winds, but also to cause more intense inland deluges.

Monday’s rainfall pushed this month into the third wettest August on record for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, with more than 7 inches in all so far – the most rainfall on record in the during the month since 1915.

Ahead of the flooding in Texas, rain continued Sunday in parts of Arizona and New Mexico after previous days’ flooding in parts of the Southwest.

In Utah, hikers on Friday were “swept away” in Zion National Park by a flash flood. Search and rescue team members were working to find a missing hiker near the Virgin River, the park said Saturday.

In New Mexico, about 160 people had to shelter in place for several hours at Carlsbad Caverns State Park on Saturday due to flash flooding, the city of Carlsbad said in a Facebook post.

The park was closed on Sunday, the National Park Service said. “Maintenance crews will begin assessing and clearing debris from the roadway,” the National Park Service added.


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