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Rains come…drought continues into 2007

By Stepanie Day

Most of Bandera County benefited by a slow1.5-inch rainfall during the first week of January 2007. The two-year drought, however, continues.

Bandera County Texas Cooperative Extension Agent Warren Thigpen said that the recent rain was “fantastic” and “great” but does not even come close to ending the drought. Bandera County ended both 2005 and 2006 at least 10 inches behind the normal rainfall average of 39.9 inches.

The totals for 2006 are not in yet, but the initial reports indicate that the county received less than 26 inches. In fact, Bandera River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) General Manager David Jeffery said that his initial figure was 22.9 inches.

Thigpen said, “the rain helped. If we could get a good one to two inches of rain every week for the next month or two, we’d be in good shape. But what we need is a prolonged wet period. The soil is so dry that the inch-and-a-half that most of the county got only went into the soil between six and eight inches. Below that, the soil profile is still dry.

“We’ll get a lot of winter forbs and growth from this. But what that will do is use up the surface moisture that we did get. Don’t get me wrong-the rain was great and will go a long ways toward helping.”

Vanderpool weatherman Stuart Haby agreed that the rain was beneficial but did not end the drought. He officially recorded 1.21 inches for the start of January in his rain gauge located at Bandera’s divide. “I tell everyone that I will quit praying for rain when the rocks get soft,” Haby said.

Also less than optimistic about recent rainfall is Roy Chancy at BCRAGD. Water levels in monitoring wells around the county continue to decline. Asked if the drought had broken, Chancy replied, “not hardly! The rain was so slow that there was almost no runoff. There have been no reports of muddy streams. The rainfall totals are not in yet for 2006. We have 12 rain spotters across the county.”

Chancy said that a single rainfall event in the Utopia area, which is in Uvalde County and borders on western Bandera County, netted nine inches. “But the rain missed the rest of the county to the east.”

Chancy added that the area within Bandera County getting the most rainfall in 2006 was Medina. One Medina rain spotter recorded 24.95 inches in his area. “A lot of the rain stayed to the west. The soil is dry for so far down now that a one-inch rain like we just had will not hydrate the soil or causedischarge.”

Bandera County is located in a semiarid climate zone and has recorded as little as 14 inches of rain during a year, although the average is 39.9 inches.