AP NEWS

Blame El Niño for recent spate of rainy days and nights

January 5, 2019

Southeast Texans, their perspective skewed by the 54-inch weather event known as Tropical Storm Harvey, will be forgiven for not noticing how abnormally wet things were in 2018, when a late-year El Niño weather pattern helped drive rainfall totals more than 2 feet above average.

There were no significant tropical downpours, just a lot of rainy days.

“If it weren’t for Harvey the rain totals probably would have been above the totals of 2017,” National Weather Service meteorologist Rob Megnia said.

Last year’s rainfall tally of 87.75 inches was 28 inches above normal, and not quite 17 inches shy of the previous year, when Harvey accounted for more than half of the 104 inches that fell.

Beaumont is hardly the only Texas town to get soaked in recent months. The state set records in September and October. Before that soggy stretch, two-thirds of Texas was officially in drought, some of it extreme. There’s no more drought, and just 1 percent of the state is even considered unusually dry.

Southeast Texas experienced a dry spell earlier in the year but was back to normal precipitation levels by February. The last El Niño moved things well past normal, and now the Weather Service is predicting another El Niño soon

“We have a 40 percent possibility of seeing above-normal rainfall totals for our winter months,” meteorologist Johnathan Brazzell said.

That has raised the specter of flooding in some parts of the area. Authorities in Deweyville in Newton County issued a disaster declaration last week after the latest round of heavy rains pushed the Sabine River into a moderate flood stage, with a predicted crest expected Monday to be just shy of a major flooding level.

“Due to the saturation, the rain water was unable to soak into the ground and instead ran into the river causing the level to rise and flood,” Brazzell said. “You have to remember we have an abundant source of moisture because we are close to the Gulf.”

Sandbag-distribution centers were set up around Deweyville and in neighboring Orange County. Deweyville Independent School District canceled classes for Monday. Olen Bean, the assistant emergency management coordinator, said residents were waiting and watching before rushing out to fill sandbags.

“The people have lived here long enough to know the river and know when they need to come get bags,” he said. “So most of the time they hold off until they feel at threat.”

Beaumont currently sits in what meteorologists call a neutral weather pattern, but Brazzell said that is expected to change soon with the return of El Niño. Such patterns typically are powered by warmer temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico that strengthen the jet streams and lead to more cloud and storm formation.

The next El Niño is projected to continue through the rest of the winter season, which the Weather Service considers to be January through March.

erica.apodaca@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/erica_a10

AP RADIO
Update hourly