In late May of 2006 South Texas was in the middle of a historic drought, dating back to June of 2005. A one in fifty year drought was ongoing in both Victoria and Corpus Christi. The Corpus Christi International Airport was about to experience an all time driest December through May, with only 2.62 inches of rainfall recorded during this time through May 27th.
Relief to the drought conditions came for some locations across the Coastal Bend and Victoria region of South Texas in the last week of May and first week of June. However, many areas are still experiencing extreme drought conditions. In addition, these rains did not fall in our watershed and lake levels are still falling.
The heavy rainfall event started on May 28th and lasted through June 2nd. During these six days a series of heavy rainfall events erased rainfall deficits in the Victoria, Corpus Christi, and the Kingsville areas and left them with rainfall surpluses, in addition to flooded fields, roadways and homes. A total of 55 flash flood warnings were issued from the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi.
Some of the key highlights from this active week included an all time 24 hour record rainfall total of 11.47 inches at the Corpus Christi International airport, breaking a record which stood since 1931. In just one hour the Corpus Christi International Airport doubled their year to date rainfall total, and in just 6 hours saw five times the amount of rainfall they had seen since January 1st. Also, a daily record rainfall for May 28th was broken at Victoria, when the municipal airport received 5.39 inches of rain. Other locations received even higher daily amounts, including the hard hit area around Ricardo, which received around 14 inches of rain early on the morning of June 2nd. The strong thunderstorms and flooding resulted in unfortunate results, including one death indirectly due to the flooding, a fire at the Valero refinery, as well as an oil spill affecting Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
The first in a series of heavy rainfall episodes began on the morning of May 28th. Thunderstorms which initially developed near the Del Rio area, moved toward the Northern Rio Grande Plains and Northern Coastal Bend area. Although these thunderstorms initially began to weaken, boundaries generated from these thunderstorms collided with a southeast flow from the Gulf of Mexico, igniting the thunderstorms once again. Surface Map
That morning flooding was observed in the cities of Victoria, Alice and Beeville. For the day, the Victoria Regional airport received 5.39 inches of rain, much of it within a three hour period. Radar analysis combined with observations also indicated isolated rainfall amounts of three or more inches over Bee, Duval and McMullen counties. In addition to the heavy rainfall, these thunderstorms produced sporadic wind damage on the morning of the 28th across Duval, Jim Wells and Western San Patricio counties.
On Memorial Day, May 29th, an outflow boundary from thunderstorms across Southeast Texas collided with the sea-breeze across the Northern Coastal Bend, resulting in strong thunderstorms. These showers and thunderstorms dumped heavy rainfall across parts of Victoria, Goliad, Calhoun, Refugio and Aransas counties. Flash flooding occurred in the city of Victoria, where several roads became impassable. In Port Lavaca, several vehicles became stalled in various flooded intersections. In Rockport, flooding resulted in water entering some downtown shops. In addition to the flooding, a wake low also formed behind the thunderstorms, during the early morning hours on May 30th, producing wind damage in Rockport. Wind gusts to 55 mph were recorded in Rockport and 61 mph on nearby Matagorda Island.
Rockport Pilot Story
On May 30th and 31st the precipitation remained northeast of the Coastal Bend and Victoria area. However, by the evening of May 31, an upper level low, as well as surface low, over the Western Gulf of Mexico began to move west, bringing its affects to the Coastal Plains region of South Texas. Also, this storm system began to develop tropical characteristics from May 31st through June 2nd, generating showers and thunderstorms during the late evening and overnight hours, with the showers and storms generally weakening during the late afternoon hours.
May 31-Jun 1st
During the late evening hours of May 31st, the surface low and convergence axis pulled up stationary across Nueces County. Very heavy rainfall began falling across the northwest and west side of Corpus Christi, including over the refineries, Corpus Christi International Airport and Oso Creek Basin. Over the course of the next four to six hours showers and thunderstorms remained nearly stationary, dumping extraordinary amounts of rainfall across the west and northwest side of Corpus Christi. The surface trough began to slowly push northeast by daybreak on June 1st, and the heavy rainfall shifted into the Northern Coastal Bend as well as the Victoria region.
Flash flooding across the west and northwest side of Corpus Christi resulted in numerous impassable roadways, including the closure of portions of Interstate 37, Highway 44 and North Padre Island Drive (358). The flash flooding also resulted in one indirectly fatality as a car hit a woman who abandoned her flooded automobile. Lightning struck the Valero refinery in Corpus Christi. While trying to put out the fire, and in conjunction with the very heavy rainfall, tens of thousands of gallons of oil overflowed a tank and protection barrier and spilled into Corpus Christi Ship Channel, closing the channel for about two days as the clean-up ensued. The heavy rainfall also caused the Oso Creek at Corpus Christi to reach 25.56 feet during the mid afternoon hours of the 1st, resulting in major flooding in the basin.
Flash flooding also occurred during the morning of the 1st in Victoria, where numerous city roads became impassable. Flash flooding was also observed in Calhoun County.
The storm system began to shift southwest on the afternoon of June 1st, and weakened slightly. However, showers and thunderstorms redevelop late in the evening and continued through the mid afternoon hours on June 2. This time the heaviest rainfall occurred further south, across Kleberg and Jim Wells counties. Nearly 14 inches of rain were observed by a coop observer just east of Ricardo, and nearly nine inches of rain was reported by an observer in Kingsville. Satellite precipitation estimates indicate nearly 20 inches of rain may have fallen 3 to 4 miles east of Ricardo during the early morning hours of the 2nd. The widespread heavy rainfall across Kleberg County resulted in extensive flooding of secondary roads throughout the county. U.S. 77 was also reported flooded near Ricardo. Several creeks in Kingsville as well as near Ricardo experienced flash flooding. Some evacuations were conducted in the hardest hit areas of Kleberg County. Sporadic flooding was also observed in portions of Jim Wells, Duval and Western Nueces counties.
By 6 pm June 2nd all of the heavy rainfall ended as the system weakened over Deep South Texas.