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Thunderstorms hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area Sunday night into Monday and dropped massive amounts of rain in the span of 18 hours, flooding streets, flooding homes and forcing some drivers to abandon their vehicles in high water.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has declared a state of disaster in the region based on preliminary damage assessments, allowing the area to use available state resources to respond. Jenkins has also requested federal assistance.
Gov. Greg Abbott also directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to increase the readiness level of the state’s emergency operations center to support communities affected by the flooding.
The rainfall in some areas qualifies as a 1-in-1,000-year flood, which means that in any given year it has a 0.1% chance of happening. Such events could become more frequent in the coming decades as the effects of climate change worsen. Climate scientists have found that warming temperatures increase the frequency of bouts of extreme precipitation.
The east side of Dallas received 13 to 15 inches of rainfall over the past 24 hours, according to a reading from Dallas Water Utilities. Most of the Dallas-Fort Worth area recorded 6 to 10 inches of rainfall.
The flash floods, which in some cases are considered life-threatening, have prompted rescue efforts. The Dallas Fire Department alone has responded to hundreds of car crashes and other water-related emergencies since 6 pm on Sunday. Dallas emergency management officials are reporting high water over many roadways and are advising residents in the area against travel.
The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for North Texas through 8 pm Monday, and for Central Texas through 7 pm Flooding is beginning to recede in North Texas, and the heaviest rainfall is shifting into Central Texas. Meteorologists are forecasting additional rainfall of nearly 2 to 5 inches as the storm system moves.
Thunderstorms are expected to continue into the week. It’s a striking contrast from just a few days ago, when much of the state had gone weeks without precipitation. Much of the state has been in an extreme drought for months. WFAA reported that houses are taking on water in Balch Springs, a suburban city in the Dallas area where a grass fire destroyed nine homes just last month.
The rise in average temperatures brought by climate change can strongly affect extreme precipitation events by increasing the intensity of rainfall during storms, climate scientists have found.
In Texas, rainfall intensity has increased by about 7% since 1960. And the risk of extreme precipitation events across the state is increasing even as the Western half of the state has generally seen a flat or declining trend in precipitation totals over the past century, according to a 2021 report by the state’s climatologist.
Texas could experience 30% to 50% more events of extreme rain by 2036 compared to 1950-1999, the report found.
Scientists have also found that significant flooding and extreme rain events are more frequent following droughts than they have in the past, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. Both the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation are expected to continue increasing across the Southern Great Plains, which includes Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
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