Rains douse drought-parched area

By Terry Collier —

With the arrival of Monday night’s encouraging rain, Fredericksburg area residents are hoping (and praying in many cases) that more moisture will be forthcoming for what has been a drought-plagued countryside.

That’s because the long-term dry spell the city and the county have been experiencing is such that only once during the past 50 years has Fredericksburg received less rainfall during the first four months than it has in 2014.

Before a brief shower that dropped 0.05 inches Friday, and Monday night’s thunderstorm activity which delivered a much-needed 1.45 inches of moisture to bring the May total to 1.50 inches, the city had recorded only 1.65 inches for January through April -- second only since the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post in 1962 began collecting rainfall records to 1971 when just 1.01 inches fell during the same four-month period.

Signs that continued rain is acutely needed have been prevalent around Gillespie County for weeks.

As lawns shriveled up and stock tank levels dropped, county underground aquifer levels had been falling even as the flow of surface waterways declined.

Meanwhile, ranchers and farmers have been taking steps in recent weeks to cope with deteriorating livestock and crop conditions, all the while hoping that the traditional life-giving rains of May and June would return sufficiently to give much-needed relief.

Fredericksburg’s 1.65-inch rainfall reading through the end of April at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park (where the city’s official weather station is located) was 6.11 inches behind the average total of 7.76 inches that would normally fall here by that time.

In April alone, when the county normally would record its third-highest monthly total of 3.12 inches, the park rain gauge measured only 1.09 inches.

That followed no rain at all in January (1.37 normal), just 0.12 inches in February (1.64 normal) and 0.44 inches in March (1.63 normal).

Farmers, ranchers

Among those most profoundly affected by ongoing drought conditions have been ranchers and farmers around Gillespie County “who have all been in limbo waiting for rain,” Brad Roeder, ag and natural resource county extension agent with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, said Monday afternoon.

For example, he explained that Gillespie’s row crops (corn and milo) looked good about two weeks ago, but had since started to burn “unless you were fortunate enough to get one of those isolated one-inch showers that recently fell in the area.”

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