This week’s record rainfall in Texas eased the state’s drought and swelled rivers and lakes to the point that they may not return to normal levels until July, scientists said Thursday.
Just weeks ago, much of the state was parched with varying levels of drought. But the same drenching rainfall that paralyzed parts of Houston and swept away a vacation home with eight people inside also offered relief from a long dry spell.
Many cities were still in danger of flooding as heavy rain from earlier in the week poured downstream, pushing rivers over their banks.
“There’s so much water in Texas and Oklahoma that it’s going to take quite a while for those rivers to recede,” said Mark Wiley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth, Texas.
If normal amounts of precipitation return, rivers will probably drop to average levels by the Fourth of July, he said.
“Six months ago, we were dying for this stuff,” he said. “And now we’re saying, ‘Please, please stop.'”
This week’s storms and floods in Texas and Oklahoma have left at least 21 people dead and at least 10 others missing.
In Miami, President Barack Obama said the flooding should serve as a reminder of the need to make the nation more resilient against natural disasters. He said climate change is affecting both the pace and intensity of storms.
“The best scientists in the world are telling us that extreme weather events, like hurricanes, are likely to become more powerful,” Obama said during the first visit of his presidency to the National Hurricane Center.
“When you combine stronger storms with rising seas, that’s a recipe for more devastating floods,” he said.
In Central Texas, search crews continued looking for the eight people feared dead after the swollen Blanco River smashed through Wimberley, a small tourist town between San Antonio and Austin, over the Memorial Day weekend. Authorities there are concerned that more rain forecast for the region could hamper the search.