December 8, 2023

A Texas drought map looks a bit different than it did last week.

Texas has suffered from severe drought throughout the summer, with the water levels in many lakes, reservoirs and rivers dropping as a result. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor map showed that only 11 percent of the state was free from drought, with roughly a third of the state battling extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe classifications by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

However, the most recent update to the map shows good news.

Map Shows Dramatic Change in Texas Drought
People drive on I-45 toward the Houston skyline as heavy rain stops during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey August 29, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Much of Texas’ drought was eased after heavy rain last week.

The new map was published on Thursday and revealed that only 13 percent of the state was suffering from extreme and exceptional drought, with only 1.78 percent of that classified under exceptional drought.

As of Thursday, nearly 14 percent of the state was free from all drought, and many areas saw a reduction in their drought severity. Most notably, nearly all of the exceptional drought in central Texas was downgraded to extreme, severe or moderate drought.

“For the first time in a VERY long time, none of Central Texas is in the worst category of drought,” CBS Austin meteorologist Avery Tomasco posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday morning. “Late October rain improved our drought by one category. Still a long way to go, but a great start.”

Tomasco added that the last time central Texas was free from exceptional drought was April 5, 2022.

Much of last week’s rain was in central Texas where some of the most severe drought was felt. Some areas received two months’ worth of rain in only a few days, and the deluge greatly improved water levels at several drought-stricken Texas lakes, including Lake Waco in McLennan County and Lake Travis near Austin, Texas. Heavy rains caused Lake Waco water levels to jump by a whopping 15 feet in less than a week to levels not seen since 2021. Lake Travis rose by 6 feet, and although the increase is a drastic improvement, Lake Travis water levels remain far below levels from 2022 and 2021.

Both lakes have leveled off since the storms, but Texas is forecast to receive average or above-average rainfall over the next few months, according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines.

A graphic shared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that much of Texas could expect a wet winter as El Niño grips the region, but Kines told Newsweek that the state likely won’t experience a redemption on par with California’s drought recovery last winter when nearly all drought in the Golden State was erased following an abnormally wet winter.

“Having said that, we do think rainfall can average near or maybe a little bit above average, which would certainly help,” Kines said on Thursday.

A repeat of the significant rain that unleashed on Texas last week also is unlikely, at least for the next week or so, Kines said.