East Texas saturated, more rain in forecast

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Drenching rains in East Texas have lakes brimming, rivers and streams swollen and people wondering when the region will begin to dry out as more showers and storms are expected Saturday.

April and May have been particularly wet months. According to the U.S. Weather Service, 26.9 inches had fallen on the region this year as of May 13, more than 10 inches above the average year-to-date total of 16.7 inches. After a relatively dry March, April skies let loose for 10.63 inches, well above the normal monthly precipitation average of 3.17. As of May 13, 6.86 inches of rain had fallen for the month. The average for the first 13 days of the month is 2.01, according to NWS data.

A significant portion of May’s total fell on May 8, when about 2 inches was measured at the airport in Tyler. The deluge prompted schools to let out early in Quitman and Winnsboro over fears of flooded streets and roads. What normally is a trickle through a stream at the Mineola Country Club golf course grew into a small lake as water nearly covered the top of several small bridges. The next day, TxDOT issued road closing alerts for six Farm-to-Market roads in Wood County, and street flooding was reported in Mineola.

City Manager Mercy Rushing said the city has fielded calls from residents frustrated by flooded streets. In some neighborhoods, people have said they’ve experienced flooding in areas that have never flooded before, she said. The city’s drainage system simply could not handle the volume of water.

The Sabine River near Mineola was at 19.27 feet on May 11 and 18.5 feet on May 13, placing it in moderate flood stage, according to the NWS hydrology reports. Flood stage is 14 feet and major flood stage is 21 feet. The river’s record high is 24.4 feet.

The Lake Fork Reservoir is also at capacity. According to the Sabine River Authority, the lake was engineered to be full at 403 feet above mean sea level. Its level on Tuesday stood at 403.69, and water was being released into Lake Fork Creek at a rate of 3,528 cubic feet per second.

The rain is also having an impact on Wood County agriculture. Heavy rainfall has prevented farmers from getting into their fields, according to Wood County Extension agent Shaniqua Davis. Farmers have been unable to apply herbicides and fertilizers to their fields, she said.

The wet conditions also are leading to an abundance of external parasites, and puddles are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, she noted.

The rain has benefited the soil profile’s moisture content, but sustained damp soil can have an adverse effect on certain plants. “A lot of plants don’t like wet feet,” she noted.

After a respite from the rain for much of the week, more storm weather is in the forecast.

Showers and thunderstorms are likely after 1 p.m. Saturday with a 70% chance of precipitation. Showers and thunderstorms also are likely Saturday night, according to the NWS. On Sunday and Monday, expect a 30% chance of more rain.

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