El Niño, after looking fairly likely for months to make an appearance this year, will probably not appear in its full majesty after all, according to Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose.
“Recent observations and forecasts now indicate the develop of El Niño is not nearly as certain as it was just a month ago,” Rose said in a video blog entry. A National Climate Prediction Center update strikes a similar tone, putting the odds of an El Nino forming at less than 50/50.
“While sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific remain much warmer than normal, there has been no engagement between these warm waters and the atmosphere up above,” Rose said. Therefore, long-range models have backed away from an El Niño forecast.
“The latest outlook for summer and fall calls for a pattern of near to slightly above normal rainfall,” Rose said, adding – and speaking to the fear that lurks in the hearts of all Central Texans – that “summer temperatures look to be moderately hot, but not record-setting.”
Earlier this year, when it was becoming apparent that Central Texas was experiencing its warmest winter on record, meteorologists gave a note of solace. The good news is, they said, is that there is little correlation between how hot winter gets and how hot summer will be.
Bob Rose is ready to take some of the good out of that news.
The weather pattern in the Pacific, characterized by unusually warm surface water near the equator, has dissipated as temperatures returned to normal, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.
In layman’s terms, “El Niño has ended,” said Bob Rose, an Austin-based meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority.
Rose has particular reason to monitor El Niños. Central Texas tends to enter wetter-and-cooler-than-normal periods during El Niño. That often means more storms. This has been a wacky weather year: a wet fall, a historically dry start to the year, and then a wet and stormy spring. As Rose noted, the past 12 months have been the wettest May-to-May stretch in Camp Mabry’s history, with 59.61 inches recorded there. Thought El Niño has dissipated, most forecasters expect a few more storms — after all, May is by far the most severe-weather-prone period of the year here — before summer settles in.
At its peak, this El Niño was among the strongest on record. It quickly earned the nickname of “the Godzilla El Nino.” (I’m going to miss linking to that image.)
Our luck will probably end this fall. Forecasters say there is a high probability that later this year we will enter La Niña, El Niño’s bizarro twin. That probably means a period of hotter-and-drier-than-normal weather. And Central Texas is naturally hot and dry.
And so, in memory of an El Niño that is now only that, please enjoy this final tribute:
On Wednesday — as Lower Colorado Meteorologist Bob Rose gave his summer forecast — Rose also noted a few forecasters’ projections for the number of major storms that could hit the United States later this year.
Colorado State University tropical-storm forecaster Phil Klotzbach is anticipating “average activity” — 12 named tropical storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Accuweather, Rose said, is projecting not only a higher number of named storms (24 named storms) but also more hurricanes: eight total, with four falling into the major category and three making landfall.
6 a.m. update: According to Austin Energy, “by 5 a.m., more than 60 percent of the 22,000 customers who experienced an outage had seen their power restored” after overnight storms rolled through the Austin metro area early Wednesday.
The utility said nearly all customers should expected to have power restored by 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Wednesday forecast for Austin: Overnight storms left as many as 19,000 Austin Energy customers without power but the utility’s repair crews are working in the rain to restore electricity.
Around 3:40 a.m., the utility reported 129 active outages affecting the 19,000 customers. By 4:45 a.m., the utility reported that as many as 10,000 customers were still without power, about 1,300 of those in East Austin neighborhoods near Walter E. Long Lake. Austin Energy said it had dispatched 10 restoration crews and 2 tree crews to help restore power throughout the city.
The overnight rains soaked the Austin metro area with at least a half-inch of rain throughout Austin to almost 2 inches of rain so far in Williamson County. Rain gauges monitored by the Lower Colorado River Authority have reported these rainfall totals in the past 12 hours, as of 5 a.m.:
1.98 inches in Florence in northern Williamson County
1.94 inches near Burnet in Burnet County
0.93 inch near Thrall in eastern Williamson County
0.91 inch near Cedar Park in southern Williamson County
0.88 inch near Lago Vista in western Travis County
0.81 inch near Lakeway in western Travis County
0.7 inch near Pflugerville
0.64 inch at Bull Creek near Loop 360
Meanwhile, first responders scrambled overnight to tackle downed trees and power lines and a house fire.
At 3 a.m., firefighters worked to extinguish a tree fire after a transformer blew near Cherry Lane and Hopi Trail.
Around the same time, Austin police reported that power lines were down at City Park Road and FM 2222, Possum Trot Street and West 11th Street, and Parmer Lane at North Lamar Boulevard. Police also said fallen trees had blocked the following streets:
South 1st Street near West William Cannon
Woodward Street just north of Ben White Boulevard
Wickersham Lane just south of Riverside Drive
Davis Lane just west of Manchaca Road
Teri Road at Nuckols Crossing
Hammock Drive at Burns Street
the eastbound lane of 45th Street at North Lamar Boulevard
the cul-de-sac at Hillbilly Lane and Rivercrest Drive
South Pleasant Valley at Nuckols Crossing
the southbound Interstate 35 service road near Parmer Lane
West Koenig Lane near Guadalupe Street
Alameda Drive just north of Live Oak Street
Drivers who encounter traffic light outages should treat the intersection as a four-way stop, Austin police said. Power outages reportedly had some traffic signals out, including at Ed Bluestein Boulevard and Loyola Lane.
In North Austin, Lightning struck the roof of a house near Parmer Lane, and the house caught fire, Austin fire officials said. Firefighters responded at 3:08 a.m. to the 12400 block of Knoll Ridge Drive, officials said. Flames were coming through the house’s eaves when firefighters arrived. No injuries were reported, officials said. Firefighters put out the fire by 3:16 a.m., and damage was contained to the roof.
The outlook for Wednesday calls for showers to continue before 7 a.m. Although the rain-cooled air has brought temperatures down to 62 degrees at Camp Mabry in Central Austin, daily high temperatures are still expected to climb to near 90 under partly sunny skies, the National Weather Service says. At night, skies should remain mostly clear and dry as the low temperature slips to around 63.
Rain chances linger on Thursday at around 20 percent, but mainly after 1 p.m., forecasters say. Otherwise Thursday should be mostly sunny with temperatures peaking near 88. By nightfall, rain chances go up to 30 percent, which will lead to muggy conditions. The increased cloud cover and humidity will keep nighttime low temperatures warm, with temperatures dropping only to around 72.
Another round of possibly severe storms is expected to arrive Friday. The forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, the weather service says, under mostly cloudy skies with temperatures topping out near 86. South-southeast winds of 10 to 15 mph could include gusts as high as 20 mph. Thunderstorms are all but certain by Friday night, as rain chances jump to 70 percent.
Over the weekend, storms will continue to erupt across the Austin metro area on Saturday, delivering more heavy rainfall. But by Saturday night, the skies will clear and bring much cooler temperatures in the mid-60s, forecasters say. Sunshine returns on Sunday with temperatures rising to 82 degrees.
Austin residents can now see how much it’s rained in different parts of town on their computers, tablets or smartphones at www.ATXhydromet.com. The City of Austin, in partnership with LCRA, has launched this new web site to display data from the Watershed Protection Department’s network of 78 gauges.
Modeled after LCRA’s Hydromet, the site displays rainfall and creek “stage.” Creek stage indicates how high the water has risen in a creek at the gauge site.
“We’re in the heart of flash flood alley, here in Austin,” said Joe Pantalion, P.E., the director of the Watershed Protection Department. “With our propensity for flooding, I can’t stress how important it is for everyone to be aware of their surroundings. It is our hope that this web site can help the public monitor flooding conditions, so that they can take the appropriate steps to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors.”
The City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department has been using a combination of City, United States Geological Survey (USGS) and LCRA gauges to monitor rainfall and flood levels in order to protect the public from flooding and to close low water crossings since the 1980s. To make the City’s gauge data public, the department partnered with LCRA to host the data. LCRA already has reliable and stable technology in place to display their own gauge data.
Watershed Protection’s online tools to help prepare for and respond to flooding now include:
ATXhydromet.com – Real-time rainfall and creek stage data ATXfloods.com – Real-time map of flooded roads ATXfloods.com/alerts – A service to send text or email messages about flood hazards on roadways or along creeks ATXfloodpro.com – Online floodplain information including maps and engineering models
Using these tools, the public can increase their awareness of the conditions around them during floods.
Contact: Lynne Lightsey: 512-974-3538 (Office), 512-802-7423 (Pager)
Scott Prinsen: 512-974-2090 (Office), 512-802-7487 (Pager)
Watershed Protection Department
El Niño is still spinning the Pacific, as well, and will likely continue into summer, producing a rainy spring, most forecasters say. And — March is traditionally a month that brings severe storms.
“When I talk about severe storms, I’m referring to storms that can produce damaging winds, large hail, tornadoes and even flooding,” Bob Rose, a meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority, said in a recent blog post. Add El Nino to the typical pattern and you get a strong possibility of a spring “with more severe storms than we’ve seen” in recent years.
That can put homes and businesses along the lakes at some risk. The agency must strike a balance during a flood between releasing water down the lakes and ensuring it does not release so much it imperils downstream communities such as Austin, which the dams were built partly to protect. The agency recently advised property owners to repair docks and generally prepare for the possibility of flooding.
Though floods are generally the most devastating creation of Central Texas storms, they can bring other damaging phenomenon. One day to watch this month: March 25. That’s a day to park the cars in the garage, if possible, because the hail that tends to come in spring has a nasty habit of hitting hard that day. Three of the six costliest hail storms in Austin history, Rose said, struck on March 25.
In an hourlong live chat with the Statesman starting at noon Wednesday, Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose offers his thoughts about Austin’s winter weather and his expertise as we look ahead at Central Texas climate this year.