"Tame by West Texas standards" may be the best way to describe the weather across the Southern Panhandle, South Plains and Rolling Plain of West Texas in 2013. The heat of the previous two years abated, with temperatures observed to be much closer to the long-term averages. Annual precipitation remained below normal for most recording stations, but the deficits were not as large as in 2012.The region continued to be mired in a long-term drought, although we saw some modest improvement in the drought conditions through the year. The region avoided a severe wildfire season, although this was likely due in part to native grasses not having recovered from the previous year's droughts and wildfires. Even during a quieter year, we still experienced significant weather events every month of the year. Severe thunderstorms brought reports of large hail, tornadoes, and damaging winds. Caprock Canyons was hit by flash flooding for the second year in a row. A couple of large dust storms swept through the area, and there were several cold snaps with ice and snow at the beginning and the end of the year. A video summary of 2013 can also be VIEWED HERE.
2013 Map of Significant Weather Events
The map below highlights some of the more significant weather events that occurred across the area in 2013. As usual, May and June were the most active months for severe thunderstorm activity. 14 tornadoes were reported across our 24-county service area in 2013. These were evenly split into seven tornadoes produced by supercell thunderstorms, and seven of the "landspout" variety (not associated with sustained, organized rotation in a thunderstorm). The strongest tornado recorded was an EF2 with winds estimated of 115 mph that struck southwest Hockley County near the town of Sundown on June 19th. An EF1 tornado was reported near Silverton on April 1st and another EF1 in far southeast Dickens County on May 23rd. All the other tornadoes received EF0 ratings.
Map displaying many of the more notable weather impacts to the region in 2013. Click on the image to view a larger map.
This map displays the 2013 year precipitation totals. The map was created with data gathered from the NWS Cooperative observers and the West Texas Mesonet. Click on the map to view a full-sized version.
The above map shows that the 2013 yearly rainfall totals varied greatly, but generally ranged from about 12 to 20 inches over most of the region. However, there were exceptions, including across the southwest Texas Panhandle as well as over portions of the southwest South Plains, where rain totals were less than 12 inches. On the other side of the coin, several spots fared better, with 20+ inches falling at Denver City, Littlefield, around Turkey and at Jayton. The 2013 extremes for the Lubbock NWS area of responsibility ranged from a meager 10.44 at Friona to a respectable 24.83 inches at Turkey.
The graphic below displays the percentage of precipitation that fell in 2013 versus an average year. Precipitation over the region generally ranged between 60 and 70 percent of normal in 2013. The few pockets where the heavier rainfall fell ended the year at or above normal.
This map shows the 2013 rainfall as a percent of the 30-year normal rainfall (1971-2000). Also plotted is the rainfall observed, in inches, at each collection site. Please click on the map to view a full-sized version. If you would like to see the precipitation as a departure from normal please CLICK HERE.
2013 brought modest but welcome improvement to the long-standing drought across West Texas. As the maps below show, at the beginning of the year most of the area was in severe to extreme drought - and the far southwest Texas Panhandle, northwest South Plains, and southern Stonewall County were all in exceptional drought. However, late winter and early spring rains and cooler temperatures brought some relief, and although most areas ended up lagging in total annual precipitation, the drought conditions improved. We ended 2013 with much of the far southern Texas Panhandle dropping into moderate drought, with even a pocket of only "dry" conditions across eastern Briscoe and Hall Counties. However, much of the area remained in severe to extreme drought.
This map shows the drought conditions on January 1st, 2013. Click on the map to view a full-sized version.
This map shows the drought conditions on December 31st, 2013. Click on the map to view a full-sized version.
2013 will go down in the books as the 29th warmest and 15th driest on record. This comes on the heels of the warmest year on record in 2012 and the driest and second warmest year on record in 2011. Thus, although 2013 was on the warm and dry side of average, following the past two years it may have seemed relatively mild and moist. The overall increase in moisture and decrease in temperature in 2013 versus the previous couple of years did allow for some modest improvements in the drought that has been affecting the region. Even so, severe drought was still affecting much of the South Plains and Rolling Plains, though the coverage of extreme and exceptional drought that was in place to start 2012 did greatly decrease over the course of the year.
The hottest temperature of 2013 was 107 degrees, recorded on June 26th. Lubbock reached or exceeded the 100 degree mark on 14 occasions, which was slightly above the average of 10 days, but well below 2012 and 2011, which saw 24 and 48 days, respectively. One the other side of the pendulum, the coldest temperature of the year was 10 degrees, reached on both the 7th and 10th of December. Lubbock saw several late freezes in spring, including on April 18th, 19th, 23rd and 24th and May 2nd and 3rd. The average last freeze for Lubbock is April 10th, and the freeze experienced on the 3rd of May was only 5 days short of the record.
Precipitation in 2013 was more consistent than 2011 and 2012, though still fell shy of average by 6.51 inches. The driest stretch of the year occurred in March and April when collectively only 0.04 inches of rain were recorded. Thankfully, precipitation increased over the rest of the year with all of the remaining months recording 1/2 inch or more. Still, July was the only month to receive over 2 inches of rainfall.
Five record highs were tied or set in 2013: 88 degrees on March 15th; 94 degrees on April 30th; 106 degrees on June 4th; 105 degrees on August 6th; and 99 degrees on September 1st. Five record lows were also tied or set in 2013: 19 degrees on March 25th; 22 degrees on April 10th; 25 degrees on April 19th; 25 degrees on April 24th; and 27 degrees on May 3rd. The 27 degrees recorded on May 3rd was also an all-time record low for the month of May, and the coldest temperature ever recorded that late in the spring season.
75.2 (29th warmest)
46.9 (33rd warmest)
12.61 (15th driest)
The top portion of the below graph shows the daily high and low temperature distribution for 2013 at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. A large portion of the year saw temperature near to above average, with a few pockets of below average temperatures. The hottest temperatures, as is typical, occurred during May, June, July and August. There was a brief reprieve from the heat in the middle of July when a rare westward moving upper level low brought widespread clouds and rain to West Texas. This same system was also responsible for making July the wettest month of the year. Several periods of atypically cold air is also noted from late March through early May. During this period, every week or so an unseasonably strong cold front moved through the region, providing below freezing lows in their wake.
(Top) Plot of the maximum and minimum temperatures (connected by a black line) observed at the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in 2013. Also plotted are the respective normals (green - range of average highs and lows) and record highs (red) and record lows (blue) for each date. Units are in degrees Fahrenheit. (Bottom) Plot of the rain accumulation (green), in inches, observed at the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in 2013. Also plotted is the distribution of the average rainfall (brown). Click on the graph for a larger view.
The lower portion of the above graph shows that after a relatively wet start to 2013, precipitation lagged the average from late March through the remainder of the year. Precipitation was particularly sparse through much of spring, but then did become a little more regular through the remainder of the year. The heavy rains in the middle of July are also readily apparent. The wettest day of the year was July 17th when 2.20 inches of rain fell. The next wettest day was October 13th when 1.11 inches fell. These were the only two days of the year that one inch or more fell at the Lubbock Airport. Three other days in 2013 measured precipitation totals between 1/2 and 1 inch. The yearly total of 12.61 inches finished as the 15 driest on record.
The graph above shows the average daily temperature and 10-day running mean (black line) of at Lubbock as a departure from the 1981-2010 normals. Click on the graph for a larger view.
The above graph displays the daily (and 10-day running mean) temperature departure from normal. A pronounced warm stretch is visible in late January and early February, sandwiched by cool periods on either side. Six periods of well below average temperatures (15 or more degrees below average) occurred from late March through early May, with mild temperatures between each cold intrusion. Most of the summer was near or above average, with the exception of the middle of July. Several warm and cold stretches then closed out the fall and early winter. Two exceptionally cold periods did occur (20 or more degrees below average), one in late November and a second in early December. Both of these cold outbreaks were punctuated with wintry precipitation in the region. The Lubbock Airport officially recorded 2.2 inches of sleet and snow on November 24th, with light accumulations of sleet, freezing rain and snow on December 5th.
2013 Monthly Highlights
4th: Light snow accumulations, generally under an inch, caused a few traffic accidents in Lubbock and Hale counties. 9-10th: A mild but strong storm system brought widespread moderate to heavy rain to West Texas. Rainfall totals of 1/2" to 1" where common on the Caprock, with 1-2" recorded off the Caprock. To learn more about this event CLICK HERE
9th: A severe thunderstorm dropped penny-sized hail in Turkey and Esteline during the late afternoon. 12th: An upper-level storm system brought showers and thunderstorms, sleet, hail, and snow to the South Plains region. Many locations received 1/3" to nearly 1" of rain. In addition, the southern Panhandle into the northern South and Rolling Plains saw 1-4 inches of snow. To read a more complete summary CLICK HERE. 19-21st: A couple of upper level disturbances brought two rounds of rain showers to northwest Texas, with many spots measuring 1/2-1" of rainfall once all was said and done. Just enough cold air worked into the second disturbance to bring a mixture of sleet and snow from Lubbock northward, though sleet/snow totals were fairly light. A summary of this event can be FOUND HERE. 24-25th: A major winter storm struck the region. Initially this system sparked a few strong to severe thunderstorms in the Rolling Plains. However, much colder air combined with strong winds and heavy snow to produce a high-impact and widespread blizzard. The Texas Panhandle was hardest hit, where a foot or more of snow fell in many spots. Whiteout conditions and snow drifts in excess of 5 feet were caused by winds that gusted to 50-60+ mph in many places. A detailed explanation of this crippling winter storm is AVAILABLE HERE.
17th: A weak line of showers and thunderstorms dropped little rain, but did produce a wall of wind and dust on St. Patrick's Day. Winds behind the leading edge of the haboob peaked around 60 mph in many spots. In addition several gustnadoes were observed along the leading edge of the thunderstorm outflow. Read more about the wind, dust and gustnadoes HERE. 23rd: A dynamic storm system buffeted the South Plains region with highs winds and blowing dust. Brownout conditions occurred as winds gusted to 55-65 mph on the Caprock. A peak gust of 77 mph was recorded in Muleshoe. In addition, the warm and dry winds fanned a fire that destroyed three buildings and temporarily closed Highway 114 near Smyer. A more detailed summary of this wind event can be FOUND HERE.
1st: Scattered supercell thunderstorms produced large hail and severe winds over the southeast Texas Panhandle and northern Rolling Plains. Hail up to the size of hen-egg smashed several vehicles in Hall and Childress counties. One storm did produce a brief tornado a few miles southeast of Silverton. A more detailed summary can be READ HERE. 7th: A wildfire, fanned by gusty, warm and dry southwesterly winds, burned approximately 1500 acres in rural parts of Crosby and Garza counties. Fortunately, the wildfire remained over undeveloped rangeland. 10th: An unseasonably strong cold front combined with an upper level storm system to bring light sleet and snow to the South Plains. Although snow amounts tallied under an inch, it created slick roads that lead to nearly 200 minor accidents in Lubbock. This was also the second latest measurable snow on record for Lubbock. 30th: Isolated high-based showers and thunderstorms produced pockets of severe wind gusts and minor damage across the southern and central South Plains. Lightning triggered a small grass fire near the KCBD-TV news station in Lubbock and prompted the evacuation of the building during a live broadcast. In addition, a brief landspout tornado formed over south Lubbock, but did no damage.
8-10th: An active stretch of weather visited the region, culminating in scattered supercell thunderstorms on the 9th. These storms dropped hail as large as baseballs near Lakeview (Hall County). A brief tornado also was observed over open country southwest of Guthrie. Read more about these active spring days HERE. 23th: A couple of very intense supercell thunderstorms produced damaging winds, torrential rain, large hail, and isolated tornadoes from the eastern South Plains into the Rolling Plains. A peak wind gust in excess of 90 mph was recorded at the Jayton airport. In addition an EF-1 tornado struck about 7 miles northeast of Girard. Another storm dropped baseball-sized hail southwest of Aspermont. To read more about these intense thunderstorms VISIT HERE. 27-28th: Hot temperatures sparked scattered severe thunderstorms off the Caprock on the 27th (Memorial Day). Hail as large as baseballs feel in Tell, with golf ball size hail falling in Roaring Springs and Post. The next day a lone supercell brought large hail and heavy rain to central and western Parmer County, including a report of tennis ball sized hail near Rhea. A full report on these severe storms can be READ HERE. 29th: The southeast Texas Panhandle was visited by large hail and landspout tornadoes. One tornado developed near Valley Schools, with another forming just south of Turkey. Additionally, 2.25" diameter hail fell near Memphis. A detailed story on this exciting afternoon can be FOUND HERE
3rd: A decaying complex of thunderstorms dropped welcome rains over the western South Plains. However, as the complex further diminished it unleashed several heat bursts, including near Hart and Lubbock where wind gusts in excess of 60 mph occurred. To read more CLICK HERE. 5-6th: A supercell thunderstorm over Parmer County transitioned into an intense squall line that accelerated through Levelland and Lubbock with severe wind gusts. After dropping baseball size hail on Friona, wind gusts as high as 80-90 mph raked parts of northern Lubbock. After weakening the complex dumped 1-3+ inches of rain in the Rolling Plains. A summary of this high impact event can be FOUND HERE. 16th: Intense thunderstorms brought two rounds of damaging straight-line winds and hail to the southern Texas Panhandle. The strongest thunderstorm winds derailed 47 freight train cars in northeast Parmer County from winds estimated to be as high as 100 mph. 17th: An intense supercell thunderstorm developed near the Lubbock airport and then moved due south dropping giant hail, torrential rain, and damaging winds. Hail as large as grapefruits and softballs fell in northeast Lubbock. To read more about this damaging storm READ HERE. 19th: This day brought two bouts of high-impact weather to the region. During the morning a complex of thunderstorms dropped torrential rainfall over the southeast Texas Panhandle and northern South Plains. Upwards of 4 inches of rainfall, much of which fell in one hour, led to widespread flooding in Caprock Canyons State Park. Later in the day an isolated supercell thunderstorm developed rapidly and produced a tornado about 4 miles northwest of Sundown, along with baseball size hail. Read more about this active day HERE.
15-19th: A rare westward moving upper level storm system brought widespread rain to West Texas. Reports of 1-3 inches of rain were common and a few areas received 4-6" inches. Read more about this cool and wet mid-summer reprieve HERE. 24th: A thunderstorm dropped half dollar size hail in Aiken. The hail also caused extensive crop damage over parts of Floyd and Hale counties.
1st: Scattered strong thunderstorms dropped locally heavy rain, gusty winds and localized small hail. In addition, one thunderstorm produced two brief landspout-type tornadoes near the Lubbock International Airport. The tornadoes produced no known damage. A full write-up on this event can be accessed HERE. 8th: A broken line of thunderstorms developed near the edge of the Caprock during the late afternoon and then moved east. One storm blew a car around near Aspermont. Lightning from this storm also destroyed two salt water tanks south of Aspermont. A separate severe storm blew an 18-wheeler over on Highway 287 east of Childress. 13-15th: The middle of the month brought several rounds of thunderstorms, and heavy rain, to the South Plains region. A few of the storms were severe, but the biggest impact was widespread beneficial rainfall. A detailed report on the active mid-August can be READ HERE.
15th: Scattered thunderstorms blossomed over the far southeast Texas Panhandle. One storm briefly became severe and produced a wind gust to 54 mph near Memphis. 27th: A thunderstorm generated winds near 70 mph north of Tulia. The winds knocked over numerous power poles.
13th: A large batch of showers and thunderstorms enveloped much of the South and Rolling Plains. Rainfall totals of 1-2 inches were common over the southern South Plains. A complete story on the mid-October rain can be VIEWED HERE.
16th: The first dust storm of the fall season struck West Texas. Wind gusts of 45-55 mph were common and this dropped visibilities below 1 mile at spots. A complete story on this wind and dust event can be FOUND HERE. 21-25th: A long duration winter storm affected West Texas, bringing a variety of wintry weather. Initially, scattered freezing rain and sleet showers fell across the eastern South Plains into the Rolling Plains. After a brief reprieve, additional sleet and snow showers yielded to more widespread snow and sleet as an upper level storm approached from the west. By the time all was said and done, a half a foot or more of snow blanketed much of the southern Texas Panhandle and northwestern South Plains. Happy reported the highest total with 10.5 inches. Elsewhere snowfall amounts were generally under an inch, though many spots saw a tenth or two of ice too. A full account of the first significant winter storm of the season can be READ HERE.
5-6th: A strong cold front combined with an upper level disturbance to bring more wintry weather to the South Plains region. The precipitation began as freezing rain and sleet on the 5th. The precipitation gradually transitioned to mostly sleet, then snow and temperatures aloft cooled late on the 5th and early on the 6th. Spots from Childress to Paducah and Dickens recorded a total of 3-5 inches of ice, sleet and snow. In addition, temperatures remained below freezing for most spots for an impressive three and a half days. To read more about the first snow of the season CLICK HERE. 20-21st: A strong and moisture rich winter storm brought welcome precipitation to the region. Temperatures were just warm enough that most locations on the Caprock saw a cold rain, though spots in the Rolling Plains were at or just below freezing, resulting in freezing rain falling there. Thankfully, the ground was warm enough to prevent roads from becoming too icy. Instead, generally wet conditions existed, with rainfall totals of 1-2 inches common from the southeast South Plains into the Rolling Plains. Details on this welcome rain can be ACCESSED HERE.