The past two years have been rough on Houstonians when it comes to precipitation. Multiple floods worthy of names like "Tax Day Flood" have drenched us and set records. This came as a shock to people who moved here during the period of prolonged drought that began in 2010. Houston is a rainy city for the most part. But even longtime residents recognize what we've gotten in the past 18 months is pretty remarkable.
The next round of what we hope does not become yet another flooding event began over the weekend. Areas northwest of Houston, like Cypress and Tomball, were particularly hard hit, accumulating more than ten inches of rain. Fortunately, there has been little in the way of the kind of flooding that has devastated portions of Louisiana since last week.
So, what's causing this?
For weeks, Houston and much of Texas were under the influence of a strong ridge of high pressure. It is what caused temperatures to rocket into the triple digits over the past couple of weeks. On the plus side, however, it's also (at least in part) what kept Hurricane Earl from taking a more northerly track toward the Gulf of Mexico.
That ridge has left the area, and all the tropical moisture from the Gulf it was holding back is now dropping on our heads.
When will it end?
If Houston was in a dry pattern over the past three to four weeks, assume we have now entered a wet one. At least for this week, the chance of rainfall will remain high. There is a slight chance some of that high pressure could edge back into the area by the weekend, but even that will only slightly diminish rain chances down to around a 50/50 proposition.
To make matters worse, we have officially entered the peak of hurricane season. Despite a relatively quiet year, the National Hurricane Center believes there is more in store. The season officially lasts until the end of November, but our greatest concern is from now through late September. By then, the first cool fronts of the year tend to put a damper on tropical weather in our neck of the woods.
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Is it going to flood again?
We are definitely going to experience flash flooding and have already on streets across Houston. That is typical of downpours we experience throughout the year. With the ground starting to saturate, however, the potential for more severe and widespread flooding increases. At the moment, the primary cause of significant flooding, overflowing bayous, is not a major concern. Area waterways remain well within their banks. But, as we've seen all too frequently in the past year, that can change quickly.
And if we managed to tack on a tropical depression, storm or hurricane to that, it could be a big problem.
For now, the main concern is street flash flooding, nasty traffic and unsightly hair frizz. All of that can be managed and, in some cases, thankfully, avoided.