In Austin, When it Rains, It Pours

Do you remember 2011 and Austin’s endless summer? Five years ago, Austinites suffered through one of the worst droughts and most punishing heat waves in the city’s history. Our region saw record high temperatures, and with no rainfall, the area’s Highland Lakes dropped to historically low levels. Many people wondered openly if Austin’s climate was destined for a hotter and drier future and we were headed toward a more permanently arid landscape.

Funny how nature can change perspectives. During the last two years, we’ve seen the land go from parched to lush, and our creeks and waterways have filled to capacity. In 2015 and the first eight months of 2016, the Austin metro region has experienced record rainfall, part of a pattern that has affected much of Texas.

During the calendar year of 2015, Austin officially measured just under 60 inches of rain, triple the amount that fell in 2011, and more than four times the totals from 2008, which was the actually the driest year of the past decade. In fact, 2015 was the wettest year on record in Austin since 1919. Similarly, 2016 has been pretty soggy, with some 31 inches of rain falling since January 1. With October and November typically being among our wettest months, it would come as no surprise if by end of 2016, the annual rainfall total approached that of 2015.

Lake Travis Water Level

Head over to to view before and afters of water levels across Texas

So what does this mean for local residents? For one thing, you can take a boat trip or swim in Lake Travis without having to take a long walk to the water’s edge. And for South Austin residents, Barton Creek, which didn’t even a see a trickle for long periods of time, has been running consistently for several months. As anyone who lives in Barton Hills or other neighborhoods with a greenbelt entrance can attest, people have been flocking in droves to experience the singular pleasure of a natural water recreation area, right in the middle of a city of nearly a million people.

However, climatologists are quick to note our weather runs in cycles, and just as years of wet weather have occurred in the past, so have extended periods of drought. This cyclical pattern means that the City of Austin is still maintaining water use restrictions that have been implemented during dry years, so despite flowing creeks, Austinites need to remember that the next period like 2011 might be just around the corner.

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