Rain fails to end area drought

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    Despite the drenching storm that barrelled through much of Texas this weekend, the region still remains in a drought, officials say.Stacie Hanes, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said Fort Worth is ahead in rainfall for 2006, but it has not been enough to cancel out last year’s deficit.

    “Normally, we see about 6 inches of rain through March 20, but this year we have already seen over 10 inches,” Hanes said. “So we are ahead of schedule for the year, but we still aren’t caught up.”

    Hanes said last year only brought in about 18 of the 34 inches expected in Fort Worth annually.

    “We only got about half of the rain we were supposed to get last year,” Hanes said. “This rain definitely helped put a sizeable dent in things, but we obviously need more to get out of the drought.”

    Hanes said before this weekend, Fort Worth was in a deficit of about 16 inches and still needs another 11-12 inches to recover from last year’s dryness.

    The rain also may temporarily help the wildfire conditions, though fires could still break out.

    “Even though we’ve had all this rain, the humidity levels in Tarrant County are unusually low and the grass is still dead,” said Lt. Steve Creed of the Fort Worth Fire Department. “And just because we had flood levels yesterday, it could very well dry out again to risk levels in just a couple of days.”

    Terry Schmidt, a conservation biologist for the Corps of Engineers, said the rain has also helped local lakes recover from extremely low levels, although they still need more in order to reach normal elevation.

    “At Benbrook Lake, we’ve come up about 3 feet since 5 a.m. on Sunday,” Schmidt said. “Now we’re just under 5 feet below normal and we expect to see it rise another foot or so over the next day.”

    Fort Worth may be on its way, but Hanes said it is impossible to predict when the drought will end.

    “Some droughts last for years on end, and we hope that isn’t the case,” Hanes said. “We’re hoping for an active spring with some more good thunderstorms and a lot of rain.