Drought Relief to Persist Into Wednesday in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, But Soaking Rain May Be Too Much of a Good Thing

Jonathan Erdman
Published: August 15, 2018

Pockets of rainfall will continue to soak areas from the central and southern Plains into the Ozarks through Wednesday, providing drought relief but also bringing a risk of localized flash flooding.

Overnight Tuesday night, torrential rain triggered major flooding in the town of Independence, Kansas, about 95 miles southeast of Wichita. There were multiple reports of homes flooded and water rescues along Whiskey Creek around midnight, with up to 4 feet of water in some parts of the town, according to the National Weather Service.

Also Tuesday, Oklahoma City picked up an all-time August record calendar-day rainfall of 5.06 inches. One to two feet of water covered roads on the city's south side, and some water was reported in homes in Norman Tuesday afternoon.

Current Radar, Watches and Warnings

Through Wednesday, an area of low pressure aloft will drift slowly eastward into the mid-Mississippi Valley.

With plenty of deep, tropical moisture and an old stationary front, showers and thunderstorms are likely to produce localized heavy rainfall which could cause some flooding.

The best chance for additional heavy rain through Wednesday is in a swath from Oklahoma to northern Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Additional Rainfall Forecast

Flash flood watches have been issued by the National Weather Service for eastern Oklahoma, northwest Arkansas and southern Missouri through Wednesday evening.

(MAPS: 7-Day Daily Rainfall Forecast)

Some locations in this flash flood watch are abnormally dry or experiencing drought conditions. Despite this, flooding can still happen because intense rainfall rates of an inch or more per hour can run off quickly, not just in urban areas with pavement and concrete, but also over hard, dried-out soil.

As always, avoid driving through floodwaters of any depth since the majority of flood-related fatalities occur in vehicles. 

Drought Status

As of Aug. 7, almost 36 percent of the contiguous U.S. was classified in drought, including just under one-quarter of the U.S. population from California and the Pacific Northwest to New England, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor analysis.

Drought monitor analysis as of Aug. 7, 2018. Areas of more serious drought are shown in progressively darker red and brown contours.

Last winter and spring, drought worsened quickly in the central and southern High Plains, southern Rockies and Desert Southwest.

By May 1, exceptional drought – the most serious drought category – was entrenched from southwestern Kansas into western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, northern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona. 

Burn marks scar the landscape from a wildfire south of Seiling, Oklahoma, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. The area burned up when the Rhea Fire rekindled the day before.
(Johnny McMahan/The Woodward News via AP)

A late-January grass fire in Parker County, Texas, west of Fort Worth, prompted evacuations.

An early-March wildfire near Hutchinson, Kansas, was the state's largest fire on record, followed by an April wildfire outbreak fanned by strong winds over parched ground in Kansas and Oklahoma.

From last October through mid-February, Amarillo, Texas, crushed its previous record-dry streak, going 126 days without measurable precipitation.

Through Aug. 7, it was still the third-driest year-to-date in both Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas, in over 100 years of records in each location, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center.

From late spring into summer, the drought spread and worsened farther east into North Texas and parts of Louisiana, Arkansas and southern Missouri.

From June 1 through Aug. 10, it had been the second-driest summer-to-date in Waco, Texas, with only 0.78 inches of rain; only the notoriously hot, dry summer of 1980 was drier.

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport had its driest summer-to-date before Thursday's rain, though records there only date to 1974.

Some rainfall deficits since spring have topped 10 inches in parts of North Texas.

It hasn't been all bad news on the drought front.

Since early May, rain quenched the winter-through-spring drought in parts of western Kansas and parts of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

Wet Pattern Recap So Far

Several rounds of heavy rain triggered flash flooding, stalling cars and prompting water rescues early last Wednesday in Oklahoma City, where Will Rogers Airport registered its fifth-wettest calendar-day rainfall for August, at the time (2.78 inches).

On the positive side, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport picked up about a quarter-inch of rain both Thursday and Friday, the highest one-day rainfall totals in over two months. The Metroplex picked up an additional 2.04 inches on Saturday.

Localized flooding prompted some water rescues near Del Rio, Texas, on Saturday. At least one vehicle stalled in floodwaters Saturday afternoon in Weatherford, Oklahoma.

Some of the heaviest rain was reported in rural sections of northwestern Uvalde County, Texas, where extreme drought conditions preceded the downpours. Doppler radar estimated 8 to 11 inches of rain fell in a short time over this area Sunday morning.

At least 27 people needed to be rescued from high water at Chalk Bluff Park near Uvalde, Texas, after the Nueces River flooded.

(LATEST NEWS: 27 People Rescued from Neuces River Flooding in South Texas

Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com, an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7, and a contributor to The Weather Channel Podcast. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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