Spring rains bring drought relief, flooding to southern Plains

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The first day of spring brought much-needed soaking rain to the southern Plains as a massive, slow-moving system crept over the drought-plagued region. These drenching rains helped both Oklahoma and Texas as they slowly recover from 2011’s long-lasting drought.

According to the USDA’s Drought Monitor, central and eastern Oklahoma saw noticeable improvement this week, and many areas are no longer classified in moderate drought or abnormally dry. In Texas, however, most areas that were in a drought remain a drought.

The Weather Channel noted that although much of western Texas remains in extreme to exceptional drought, conditions have vastly improved since October when 88 percent of the state was in exceptional drought. This week, that percentage sits at just 18 percent.

The rainfall in the southern Plains is notable when compared to last year. Since Jan. 1, Austin has seen nearly 16 inches of rain. To compare, the city received 16.9 inches of rain during 2011. Other cities, including Houston and Waco, show similar figures.

The drought relief came at a price for the region as heavy rains, flood warnings and a tornado accompanied the storm.

The 2011 drought left Texas agriculture producers with $7.62 billion in losses, making it the costliest drought in the state’s history and possibly the most-expensive drought ever suffered by any state, according to Reuters.

"Texas farmers and ranchers are not strangers to drought, but the intensity of the drought, reflected in record high temperatures, record low precipitation, unprecedented winds coupled with duration, all came together to devastate production agriculture," Travis Miller, an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University, told Reuters.

Many of Texas' livestock producers reached as far as Montana to purchase hay for their herds. When the long-distance hay purchases became too expensive, they were forced the sell their herds, including young heifers - the basis for the future of their ranches.



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