Texas Storm Preparation Tips: West Texas and The Panhandle

Texas Storm Preparation Tips: West Texas and The PanhandleThe North American Monsoon Season begins in around June 15 and until the end of September. It affects large areas of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, including West Texas and the Panhandle. Storm systems build rapidly during this time, unleashing powerful electrical storms, tornados, dust storms, extreme heat, and flash floods.

Flash flooding is the number one weather-related killer in Texas and a constant threat in West Texas.

Not limited to monsoon season, heavy rain and flooding from powerful storms can occur at other times of the year, dropping several inches in one hour and producing heavy runoff. Flowing into the thousands of creeks and ravines throughout the region, surging water can quickly deluge areas miles away from storms. While the region’s many meandering dry canyons and creek beds look to be safe from flooding, flood waters have long been known to fill them suddenly and without warning. If you’re out exploring the many state parks, it is extremely dangerous to camp in any ravine, canyon or creek bed at any time.

How Bad Can It Get?

In April 2015, a strong cold front and a upper-level low pressure system brought widespread heavy rains West Texas. Some areas saw between half to 7 inches of rain, which flooded roads and homes. The Lubbock Fire Department responded to numerous water rescues.

On May 4, 2015, a super cell dropped heavy rain and large hail on Ft. Stockton causing wide spread flash flooding. Water flow was powerful enough to carry off a 100 pound dumpster.

On July 10, 2015 flash flooding struck El Paso, trapping two men in a pickup truck under a bridge. Firemen had to respond to 5 other water rescues.

How Dangerous is a Flash Flood?

Nearly 50 percent of all flash flood fatalities nationwide involve vehicles. Flooded roadways can conceal washed-out bridges or gouged-out roadbeds. A mere 18 inches of water is enough to float a 3,000 pound vehicle and sweep it away with other debris.

Night driving makes it especially difficult to judge water depth and nearly eight of ten vehicle related flood fatalities in Texas occurred between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am. Remember: Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

Moving water is exceptionally powerful. One cubic foot contains 7.48 gallons and weighs 62.42 pounds . Flow creates a lot of drag. It only takes about 6 inches (that’s 31.21 pounds) of water to pull an adult off their feet. Since flash floods occur with large amounts of water suddenly and moving with enormous force, they are capable of destroying structures and moving heavy objects especially if flood waters pass through confined areas such as between tall, steep-sided hills. One inch of rain over one acre of land can produce 27,154 gallons. That’s over 100 tons of moving water. Flood waters also carry boulders, mud, and other dangerous debris.

Know What to Do

1) Listen to the news and weather reports. Hurricane headings and conditions can change hourly. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) broadcasts continuous weather information for Texas directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.

2) Listen for flash flood watches and warnings in your area. If your home is located in a flood plain or low-lying area prone to flooding, consider packing an emergency supply kit and personal items and evacuating to higher ground.

3) Protect your possessions and gather records:

  • Copies of insurance policies with your agent’s contact information.
  • Document and take photos of all household items and valuables.
  • Copies of social security cards, passports, finance records, and receipts of major purchases.

For more information about preparing your family and home in the event of a Texas storm, contact your county or local Offices of Emergency Management. If you live in one of these West Texas cities, see:

You can also visit The Texas Division of Emergency Management for more flash flooding information in your area.

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About 

Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.