2013-02-07 / Front Page

Good News Apparently Not Found in the Forecast

It’s as if we’re being teased. This week’s promise of showers, combined with last month’s four and three-quarter inches of rain, barely even wet the surface of the ground, much less made much mud in Lee County.

Nor did it matter that the month’s totals beat the average by more than 2 inches … mostly because that rain fell in two days, January 8 and 9.

“It’s been pretty tough,” said Mike Organ, Farm Bureau president for Lee and Bastrop counties. “It’s been since 2010 that we got enough rain to keep the tanks full and the pastures green.”

Of course, most folks in Lexington know that.

Organ watches weather forecasts on Austin television stations. “Some of them said we had a surplus for the year in 2012, but that rain was all in one or two months,” he said, chuckling. “Austin had zero rain in December.”

Lexington recorded less than a half-inch in December, and less than an inch in November.

“It’s getting real serious,” he continued.

The National Weather Service isn’t holding out hope for much of a change. “The weather patterns don’t look favorable in the spring,” said Tad McDonald who works in the NWS New Braunfels office. “We’re not seeing anything that will bring much moisture to Central Texas any time soon.

“I wish we had better news,” he said.

McDonald said that our best hope is for a neutral weather pattern that will allow tropical weather patterns to bring moisture to Texas in the summer. A neutral pattern is one that is unaffected by either El Nino or La Nina.

“In a neutral weather pattern the winds will be favorable from the Gulf,” he said. “What we want is a slow moving tropical wave or disturbance which will cover a wide area and get many more cities and towns more rainfall. Several tropical waves to the Texas coast would do a lot to break the drought.”

But that kind of pattern won’t appear until the summer, if then. McDonald said that typical summer patterns don’t allow tropical weather into this part of Texas.

Still, without significant moisture, Organ worries about how farmers and ranchers in Lee County will survive. In fact, if local ranchers see a repeat of 2011 conditions, many may sell most of their cattle.

“The cattle ranchers will keep the three or four head they need to keep their ag exemptions but that’s it,” he said.

“In Lee County, the cattle population is already about half of what it was in 2010. If we see a repeat of 2011, we’ll see maybe 50 percent of what a pasture should carry, if that.”

Right now, Organ said cattle are selling for a fairly high price. At $2.50 a pound for a 4-500 pound animal, “ … what are you going to do?” he asked, especially if the drought curtails oats and hay production like it did in 2011 and the drought in the northern states has a negative impact on alfalfa.

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