By Betsy Blaney
LUBBOCK — Texans just survived their warmest year ever, and 2012 and 2011 also brought the state its warmest two-year span in more than 100 years, according to National Climate Data Center numbers released Tuesday.
The statewide average temperature in 2012 was 67.4 degrees, a tie with 1921. Meanwhile, the combined temperature average for 2012 and 2011 was 67.3 degrees, making them the warmest consecutive years dating to 1895.
The normal statewide average is 65 degrees.
Texas had its driest year ever in 2011. Add in a 24.6-inch statewide average for 2012, and Texas had its third-driest two-year span on record. For those two years, the state got just 71 percent of the normal rainfall of 55.9 inches.
Last year was the 32nd driest in 118 years of record keeping.
“What happens between now and May is going to be huge as far as summertime goes,” National Weather Service meteorologist Victor Murphy said. “If we come up with a dry April or a dry May, we’re going to be hurting.”
April and May are Texas’ wettest months historically.
About 97 percent of the state is in some stage of drought; about 12 percent of that is listed as exceptional or the worst drought designation.
At the end of November, the 109 lakes that supply the majority of the state’s water were 65 percent full, down .58 million acre-feet since the state’s October report. An acre-foot equals about 325,000 gallons.
Statewide, October through December was the driest for those three months since 1950 and third-driest overall going back to 1895.
Fortunately, the state was forecast to have the best rainfall in months over the next few days. The last substantial rains across Texas came in late September.
Some parts of the state could see as much as 6 inches of rain through Thursday. West Texas, which did not get as much rain in 2012 as other parts of the state, could get as much as 1.5 inches.
“It’s going to provide a lot of relief,” Murphy said, adding that January’s rainfall total will be above average because of the storm system sweeping across Texas.
Farmers and ranchers need the moisture badly. Wesley Welch, who manages about 5,400 head of cattle across about 275,000 acres in West Texas, bet on good precipitation and rebuilt his herd from 46 percent stocked at this time last year to 75 percent stocked as of Tuesday.
The rains in September helped grow good winter forage for his animals.
“I feel like we can get by until early spring at those (stocking) levels,” he said. But “we’re going to need a good spring.”
Texas was mostly spared from the devastating drought that parched much of the Midwest and areas in the South, though it never fully recovered from 2011’s historic dry spell.
In 2011, ranchers were forced to sell off cattle, hay prices were high, and reservoirs dried up and kept rice farmers in South Texas from getting enough water to irrigate their fields.
On Tuesday, board members at the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Central Texas agency that governs water to the rice growers, again voted to cut off downstream allotments if there’s no significant rain by March.