Paul Dowlearn

This past week all of us were affected by heavy rain and thunderstorms that were more typical of the kind of severe weather we expect in May. We marked 4” of rain at our house east of Valley View and just over 1 ½” at the nursery. Some folks got more than that and others a bit less, but I think most all of us got at least an inch. That is more than plenty for late December.

This rain fell on already saturated soils so minor flooding caused some problems. However, the real damage came from wind and hail as the final round of T’storms in this system passed through. There were trees down, fences, siding, and roofing material apparent as the sun rose on the 27th. Along with all that there were power outages. Lots of ‘em….

Nila and I had supper with whatever battery operated lights we could muster (all two of them). Our house is at the very end of a line so any power surge due to lightning knocks us out. Having grown used to it we always had a supply of kerosene lamps and candles, but this event caught us unprepared. We decided to put candles on our shopping list. Maybe we can find some bargains after the holidays.

The weather plays a huge role for all of us but especially for farming and ranching, gardening, and for those who work outdoors or who find comfort in just being outdoors. All we can do is take what comes our way in stride. This week I will look back on 2018 and quote predictions for 2019.

2018 began with a dry but warm winter. The wheat crop was sparse. Spring began with huge swings from above normal highs to below normal lows with freezes lasting into mid April. Then it got really hot in May. The result was we just did not have much of a spring. If you read this column regularly, you will recall I griped about it plenty. All one can do…. Eh?

These episodes where we “spring” right into summer seem to be the norm lately. Few if any of us care for it. Summer was not a record breaker but plenty hot enough and dry as we expect it. The heat broke in August as it began to rain. More rain in September through December. All those months were well above average which resulted in 2018 being above average rainfall. The record will show the area at least 8” above normal with some of us recording more than that. Again, this seems to be the “new normal.” The first 71/2 months were all below normal. For the record, the National Weather Service did accurately predict this wet fall season almost a year in advance.

The prediction for 2019 is for the wet winter to continue with near normal temperatures. A weak to moderate El Nino is supposed to keep the rain above normal through next spring and possibly into early summer. (Crossing fingers, knocking wood, and praying that holds true). I think we all richly deserve to have a nice spring. Right!!

Temperatures are slated to be above normal next summer and remain so through to the end of 2019. Right now, the rainfall forecast next summer, and fall are what the NWS calls “equal chances.” I define that as meaning somewhat close to normal.

Although much of the jargon used in long range weather predictions is still way over my head, I am going to take my limited understanding and say that 2019 could turn out to be a pretty good year for us. IF the forecast holds true, again, we all deserve a break. We just don’t need 6” to 8” inches of rain in December.

For now, and due to all the rain, we have fallen way behind on our landscaping jobs. Likewise, business has been slow at the nursery. Equipment breakdowns and storm damage plus the routine bills have not helped either. You just can’t do gardening in the mud. Worse, due to cold winter temps it takes much longer for things to dry out.

Most years I plant at least one tree on New Year’s Day. This year I will have to wait. My good friends in the Rolling Plains Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists schedule a five mile nature walk on that same day out at Lake Arrowhead State Park. Each year I threaten to show up but have not done so. This year, even Penny Miller who often leads this hike may not make it. The forecast is highs in the 30’s with a stiff north wind and, of course, there will be puddles of standing water and plenty of mud. I will not make it this year either. Still on my “to do” list.

Ya’ll be careful this New Year’s Eve. Have fun and celebrate but be mindful there will be those who should have called a cab or “designated driver.” Nila and I plan on being safe, warm, and at home by dark. Happy New Year!!

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