Rains help with dry conditions

Cameron County Public Works employees help distribute sandbags at Anastacio Guillen Public Works Building in Precinct 1 Wednesday. By Miguel Roberts, The Brownsville Herald

Rain from Tropical Storm Fernand provided some much-needed precipitation that might help ease the Rio Grande Valley’s dry conditions.

And more rain could come this week with the National Weather Service in Brownsville forecasting a 50 to 60 percent chance of rain or thunderstorms Thursday and a 30 percent chance of rain on Friday.

But as of Wednesday, forecasters said it was too soon to tell how much relief the rainfall offered the region.

As recent as last week, Cameron County and a portion of Hidalgo and Starr counties had been designated as “abnormally dry,” according to the Texas Drought Monitor.

Joseph Tomaselli, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said officials won’t know just how the recent rains will affect the drought designation until all rain data has been received.

“That remains to be seen and will depend upon largely how much rainfall we got in the areas and how wide-spread it was,” Tomaselli said. “When you are in a drought situation, any rainfall is beneficial so this will be beneficial rainfall to the Rio Grande Valley.”

Tropical Storm Fernand formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and made landfall Wednesday morning about 35 miles north of La Pesca, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Fernand was close enough to the Valley to provide pockets of locally heavy rainfall, rough surf, tidal run-ups to the dunes and dangerous rip currents at the beaches.

The NWS reported that in a 48-hour period — as of 1 p.m. Wednesday — Fernand dropped 3.7 inches of rain in Port Isabel, and an average of about 3.5 inches of rain in Brownsville, 2.5 inches of rain in Los Fresnos, 2.73 inches of rain in San Benito, 2.28 inches of rain in Harlingen and about 1.2 inches of rain in McAllen.

Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville was elated to receive 3.55 inches of rain—posting on Facebook that the rainfall in a 24-hour period was more than the refuge had received all year. The last time the sanctuary received significant rainfall was on June 25, with 2.70 inches, according to Pablo Quintanilla, of the Gorgas Science Foundation, the non-profit that manages Sabal Palms.

Quintanilla said workers at Sabal Palm do their best to keep the gardens healthy during the summer months, but the rain will help spruce up the gardens.

“If it continues all month, it will also help promote the production of Sabal Palm fruit, which contain the seeds necessary for the survival of this native tree,” Quintanilla said.

According to the NWS, rainfall is in the forecast for Thursday. Individual bands of rain could produce nuisance flooding in the Valley early this morning, but widespread heavy rain and flooding is no longer a threat.

A “spin” in any of the stronger cells in these bands could produce waterspouts or short-lived tornadoes in lands through Thursday, according to the NWS.

Tidal “run-up” is still possible to the dunes at Boca Chica and South Padre Island with gradual improvement Thursday.

Tomaselli said September is usually the wettest month of the year for the Valley.

And while the region is expected to have a hot and rain-free weekend, the chances of rain increase again next week with the possibility of a mid-level disturbance passing south of the Valley.