Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon has declared this year's dry spell the "most severe one-year drought on record," according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Texas AgriLife Extension said agriculture losses in the state due to this year's drought have reached $5.2 billion and are now the costliest in state history for Texas farmers and ranchers.
It's been a year of superlatives for Texas: worst single-year drought, largest agricultural losses and most destructive wildfires — blazes that have damaged millions of acres and more than a thousand homes, according to an Associated Press report. The state just finished the hottest June through August on record in the U.S., the National Weather Service said Thursday.
"And probably some of the most widespread water restrictions, too," weather service meteorologist Victor Murphy said. "And they're going to get worse."
Texas' 86.8-degree average beat out Oklahoma's 85.2 degrees in 1934. That Dust Bowl year is now third on the list for the three-month span, behind No. 2 Oklahoma's heat wave this June through August (86.5 degrees).
Both Texas and Oklahoma as well as other states in the nation's southern tier have baked in triple-digit heat this summer. Texas had its hottest June on record, the fifth warmest month overall, and July was the warmest month ever. Oklahoma's July was the country's highest monthly average temperature ever, at 89.1 degrees.
Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico each had their hottest June through August on record.
Nationwide it was the second-hottest June through August on record, averaging 74.5 degrees. Only 1936 was hotter, at 74.6 degrees. This year's June through August average was 2.4 degrees above the long-term average (1901-2000).
The averages are reached by taking the highs and lows in entire 24-hour cycles of day, not just from daily highs.
The heat has been deadly. Seventeen people have died in Dallas County and six in Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth. One person has died in Harris County, where Houston's located.
Wichita Falls in North Texas near the Oklahoma border topped the heat list with an average temperature for the three months of 91.9 degrees. Since the Texas heat began in May, the city has had 98 days of at least 100 degrees; 52 of those were consecutive days.
The combined number of at least 100-degree days in the state's four largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin — is 246. That tally is likely to climb as forecasts call for more triple-digit heat next week across much of the state.