Tag Archives: Texas drought

Lake is filling … rapidly!

I am acutely aware that a couple days of heavy rainfall isn’t going to bust a drought, but I have to say that the sight of a nearby lake gives me hope for the future of our region’s supply.

What makes me feel this way? I drive frequently along U.S. 380 from Princeton to Farmersville, Texas, as part of my work as a freelance journalist. My seven-mile drive takes me over a finger of Lake Lavon, which I have noticed over the past week or two has been rising dramatically.

A bridge crosses the lake from the north side of 380 and I have noticed that the water level is creeping up to the bottom of the roadway. It’s still several feet below the deck and it likely won’t ever go over the top. What’s more the shoreline around the lake is now under several feet of water.

I write this little ditty awaiting another drenching that’s coming our way, or so the weather forecasters are telling us. They’ve been wrong before, but the thunder we’re hearing tells me it’s on its way.

I am going to interview the chairwoman of the Texas Water Development Board in a few days for a story I am working on for KETR-FM radio. I well might ask her if my optimism is warranted.

Stay tuned … and stay dry.


Has the latest drought ended — for real?

Amarillo and Texas Panhandle residents — and millions of visitors to the region — know what this picture depicts.

Cadillac Ranch was under water earlier this month. The picture, snapped by KFDA NewsChannel 10 reporter Jami Seymore, illustrates the good news/bad news situation that is occurring throughout Texas.

I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex these days. I spent 23 years in Amarillo, visiting Cadillac Ranch many times.  I don’t recall ever seeing the Caddies under water in this fashion. Wherever he is, the late Cadillac Ranch founder Stanley Marsh 3 is smiling.

The region has been punished by drought since the beginning of time. It also has been restored by heavy rain over that same span of time. The Panhandle and much of the rest of the state well could be undergoing a restoration at this moment.

We’ve been wet in Collin County of late. I have bemoaned the rain at one level, in that it makes running errands a bit problematic on occasion. I’ll suck it up and endure right along with the rest of my fellow travelers.

As for the Panhandle, the good news quite naturally is that the moisture replenishes farm and ranch land. The dryland farmers who don’t irrigate their crops, relying exclusively on rainfall to do that for them, are ecstatic. So are the ranchers whose livestock depend on rainfall provide them feed to fatten them up for market.

Lake Meredith, the huge reservoir in Hutchinson County that provides potable water for communities throughout West Texas, also is seeing a resurgence. Remember when it sank to a depth of 26 feet about five years ago? It’s at more than 75 feet today — and it’s getting even deeper!

Is the drought over? I don’t think we should act as though it is. The Panhandle is wetter than it’s been for some time. So is the Metroplex, where communities as recently as two years ago were enacting water-use restrictions on residents. Water remains a finite resource and it’s more vital than any of the oil and natural gas we’ve been pumping out of the ground since the early 20th century.

We gripe about all the “bad news” we hear and read. I want to share this post — and the picture — to cheer you up. Are you cheerful now?

Good! Have a great day.

Water getting harder to reach

Happy Trails, Part 128: Getting tired of rain … again!

I once posted a blog item that told of how I had grown to appreciate the rain, given that we lived in the Texas Panhandle, where annual rainfall amounted to fewer than 20 inches.

We moved to Amarillo from Beaumont, where it rains a lot more than that; we moved to Beaumont from Portland, Ore., where it rains constantly. Growing up I hated the rain.

Now we have relocated to Fairview, just north of Dallas.

It has been raining here. A lot! It’s making me grow tired of the rain yet again.

My wife and I spent a few days out of town. We pulled our RV from our garage location in Amarillo to Copper Breaks State Park, about a dozen miles south of Quanah. It rained a good bit while we were there, but it was mild compared to what fell on the Metroplex and the Hill Country while we were staying at Copper Breaks.

Then we returned home Wednesday, driving into the deluge that had flooded much of the Metroplex.

Now we hear that “a lot more rain is on the way,” according to a TV meteorologist.

OK, I am not going to gripe about the rain. I know it brings life to any region that is fortunate enough to receive it. I also know that it brings destruction if it comes too rapidly; just as those who live along the Llano River in the Hill Country have learned.

I guess it’s just in my nature to bitch about the rain, just as I griped for more than two decades while living in Amarillo about the lack of it and the incessant sunshine.

Now that I am older and possibly wiser (although that’s open to plenty of debate, as my blog critics might suggest), I’ll just have to learn with what I cannot control.

Cities’ conundrum: whether to limit water use and cut revenue

Janet Rummel, public relations and communications officer for the North Texas Municipal Water District, has a possible word to the wise to city officials who might be reluctant to enact water-use restrictions in the face of a punishing drought.

If you are concerned about a loss of revenue collected from water use fees, then your reluctance to impose water conservation measures carries even greater risk.

You will run out of water, Rummel warned in remarks to the Rotary Club of Fairview.

Much of the state remains caught in drought conditions. The Texas Panhandle, where my wife and I lived until this past May, went through an entire winter with any measurable precipitation. No snow. No rain. Nothing!

North Texas didn’t fare much better than the Panhandle, as I have learned.

So, cities that are pondering whether to impose restrictions on water use face the mother of conundrums: Do they interfere with their revenue stream, depriving their municipal coffers of money used to fund various public services?

The NTMWD, based in Wylie, serves about a dozen communities north and east of Dallas. Rummel talked about the array of measures that the district has taken to improve the quality of water; it also is planning to spend a significant amount of money to improve the delivering of water.

From my standpoint, a city that faces the prospect of running dry — of losing its water supply — has no choice whatsoever than to impose limits, even if it chokes off the revenue it uses to pay for the myriad municipal services it provides. Moreover, I am amazed that city officials would be so reluctant to take a proactive stance that conserves this priceless natural resource.

And yet, according to Janet Rummel, cities are wringing their hands over such a decision. I find the quandary a non-starter.

Drought now in ‘extreme’ mode; it’s time for prayer

Take a good, long look at this map. It comes from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

That red dot in the middle of the Panhandle surrounds Amarillo, dear reader. The red means “extreme” drought conditions. The orange around it denotes slightly less severe drought conditions.

Do you remember what we were saying in the Panhandle about a year ago? We were being deluged by heavy rain. It was pouring so much that many experts — including those at Texas A&M — were holding out hope that we could break the drought that had strangled us for far too long.

A year, as they say, is a lifetime. It’s true in politics. It’s also true as it regards our weather.

Roughly two-thirds of Texas is under a “low” drought designation. Good for them. Bad for the Panhandle as well as for the Trans-Pecos region, which you’ll notice is also shaded in the red “extreme” drought designation.

What’s the message?

We need to take great care of the water we have. We need to protect it as the treasure we all know it to be.

Oh, and since Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, it wouldn’t hurt to send a word up to the Almighty to bring us some more rain.

Always time to thank first responders

Not quite five years ago I posted an item on High Plains Blogger that thanked the first responders who helped Amarillo cope with a massive snow storm.

This year, we haven’t been through that particular form of discomfort. Our first responders haven’t been pulling motorists out of snow drifts, or worked day and night to restore electrical power.

Others, though, have been busy fighting grassfires that erupt in the wind and bone-dry conditions that have signaled the return of severe drought conditions to the Texas Panhandle.

A special word of thanks goes out today

I’ve noted before in this venue about how we should always appreciate the work of those who answer the call when times get tough.

The Texas Gulf Coast has been through an epic deluge created by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. The 2017 hurricane season also brought destruction and misery to Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. California residents — from Napa Valley to Santa Barbara — have been victimized by raging flames. Americans throughout the Upper Midwest to the East Coast this winter have been battling unspeakable cold, wind, snow and sleet. So has the Deep South, which has seen record cold.

They, too, depend on those first responders to lend aid, comfort and support.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate all the hard work that goes into their protection.

This is my way of offering yet another word of thanks to the men and women who sign on to rush toward hazard — even danger — on our behalf.

I am grateful to have been spared the monstrous snow event that we’ve witnessed during our 23 years on the Texas High Plains. Yes, I want some moisture to fall from the sky — just not in the amount that poured forth in February 2013.

Our firefighters, police officers, utility crews, emergency medical personnel deserve our thanks always. We need not wait for disaster to visit for us to express appreciation for all that they do.

MPEV job faces tight deadline

They’re supposed to start rolling the heavy equipment soon onto the site of Amarillo’s next big project.

The contractor will bring in the front-end loaders, the backhoes, the dump trucks … all of it.

Then they’ll get to work on the multipurpose event venue, which celebrated a ceremonial groundbreaking this week on the now-vacant lot across the street from City Hall.

Once they get started on the job, they’re going to face some immediate pressure. They’ve got to get the job done in about a year.

You see, they’re going to welcome a minor-league baseball team to Amarillo. The plan is to toss out the first pitch for the start of a AA season that begins in April 2019.

The MPEV will cost about $45 million. It will be paid with hotel occupancy tax and lease money provided by the Elmore Group, owners of the team that is relocating here from San Antonio.

I remain confident they’ll get the job done. My confidence, though, must carry a caveat.

It’s the weather, man.

We’re in a prolonged dry spell in the Texas Panhandle. Not only have not had any snow this winter, we haven’t had any measurable precipitation of any kind.

Can we depend on the weather cooperating with us? Hah! Not a chance, dude! As the saying goes: If you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes …

The weather is likely to become a major determinant on whether the MPEV gets built on time.

I don’t intend to wish bad things with this blog post. I merely intend to forewarn us all that the weather quite possibly can toss a major roadblock in front of the construction crews that will have little room for error — manmade or nature made — as they proceed to get this first-class venue built.

Let’s remember, too, that even though this winter has been bone-dry — so far! — we cannot guarantee what the next winter will bring to the High Plains of Texas.

And, oh yes, we have the unpredictable and occasionally explosive spring season awaiting us just ahead.

Time won’t wait for the work to get done.

Here’s hoping for the very best.

Remember when Texas was awash in water?

Mother Nature is so darn fickle.

It was just a year ago when Texas was in the midst of a drenching. Rain soaked the landscape from the Panhandle to the Rolling Plains. The snowfall early in 2017 was welcome, too. The first half of the year brought ample moisture, pleasing our farmers and ranchers to no end.

Then came Hurricane Harvey’s one-two punch along the coast; it arrived as a hurricane and pounded the Coastal Bend with storm surge and heavy wind and returned a few days later as a tropical storm and inundated Houston and the Golden Triangle under 50 inches of rain.

The Texas drought was over! Or so the National Weather Service proclaimed.

Hold on a minute. What happened?

It stopped raining in the Panhandle. Around 40 percent of the state is undergoing moderate to severe drought. The Panhandle has been dry for 107 straight days and is approaching an all-time dryness record, which was set in — gulp! — 1902.

As the Texas Tribune reports: The Texas Panhandle has become ground zero in a drought that has crept into much of the state just five months after Hurricane Harvey — including areas that suffered massive flooding during the storm.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry said it would be helpful if Texans would pray for rain. The 2011 drought was a punishing event and the governor sought to look toward the heavens for relief.

It came eventually. Did the prayer help? It’s equally tough to prove or deny categorically. We are left, then, only to believe.

With that, perhaps it’s time we sought help once again from the Almighty.

If you have to … do it, just don’t tell me


WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Drinking potty water isn’t exactly to my liking.

But that’s what they’re doing in this Wichita County community. They’re processing waste water and turning it into potable water … the stuff you can swill with allegedly no discernible after taste.

The officials in Wichita Falls swear by what they’re doing.

For one thing, it is reducing by a considerable amount the volume of fresh water the city’s 100,000 or so residents are consuming.

The city had to do it back when so much of Texas was enduring the punishing drought. They developed technology to turn — pardon the intentional pun — crappy water into fresh drinking water. It’s my understanding that the locals aren’t complaining about it.

Given that Wichita Falls has a limited supply of drinking water — with it all coming from surface-water reservoirs — the city felt it had no choice but to find a way to convert the waste water into the drinkable liquid.

When I first got wind of this initiative, I approached then-Amarillo City Manager Jarret Atkinson — a well-known expert on water development and conservation — and said the following:

If you have to develop this kind of technology for Amarillo, fine! Go for it! Just don’t tell me.

Did prayer bring the water back to the Panhandle?

lake levels

Let’s flash back to a time just before the 2012 presidential campaign.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was thinking about seeking the Republican nomination. His state was being throttled by a killer drought.

What did he do? He called for Texans to pray. The reaction by the media and many others outside of Texas was quite predictable. Perry drew criticism, even outright scorn. It was a simplistic tactic he sought to employ, critics said.

Four years later, consider this: Texas is no longer in a drought.

Hmmm. How could that’ve happened? Was it, um, prayer — maybe — that did it? Who can say “no” categorically?

Consider the levels at Lake Meredith. The Panhandle’s largest manmade reservoir is filling back up. Last time I noticed, I saw that the lake was at 64 feet. What was it about the time Gov. Perry called for prayer? I believe it was around 26 feet.

There’s more to report. Kent Satterwhite, head of the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, says the quality of Lake Meredith water has improved while the lake levels have increased. Indeed, the levels have improved so dramatically that CRMWA has resumed pumping water to its 11 member communities, including Amarillo.

Look, I’m not going to discount actual scientific factors that have contributed to the increase in moisture in this part of the world. Pacific Ocean currents are helping spur more storms. It’s that El Nino effect, right?

However, neither am I going to discount a more spiritual cause for the turn of events.

I’ve never been able to prove or disprove the impact of a simple act of prayer. I am left to rely on faith, which doesn’t require anyone to prove anything.

Whatever the cause of the return of Lake Meredith’s priceless resource, I’m good with it.