angiest's WunderBlog

Lake Somerville

By: angiest, 1:20 AM GMT on August 15, 2011

This is a repost from my main blog at

I recently had an opportunity to drive over Lake Somerville dam. Lake Somerville is a reservoir formed by the damming of Yegua Creek, which is a tributary of the Brazos River.

Lake Somerville is not a terribly large lake, but it is used to provide flood control for communities downstream (including Somerville, which lies just to the east of the dam), as well as water and recreation. Lake Somerville lies within the CWA for NWS Houston/Galveston, and is one of the reservoirs tracked in their weekly drought information statements. As of August 10th, the lake was reported at 51.8% capacity, and remarked to be dropping fast. I expect the lake level was very close to 50%, or even below, at the time the following pictures were taken. It was recently reported in Houston news that a ring that was lost several years ago in about 5-6 feet of water was recently recovered from one of the new beaches.

The pictures were taken by my wife on her Palm Pre as we drove across the dam. The "beaches" are not supposed to be there, they should all be under water. Unfortunately, we were not able to get pictures of the marina, where it appeared a few boats were already beached.

In this first photo, the vehicle in the sandy area should be under water!

In the next picture, you can see a sandbar sticking well out into the lake.

The next view is looking toward the spillway, the water should be up to the embankment:

In this last view, you are looking at the Corps of Engineers' control structures, including a lake level meter that is high and dry:

From the Corps of Engineers website, here is the reverse view of the last image:

Overall, the lake seems to have dropped by about eight feet so far.

A Prediction for the 2013 Hurricane Season

By: angiest, 7:48 PM GMT on August 13, 2011

I am predicting the first named storm for 2013, Andrea, will strike near Houston-Galveston. Taken from my main blog at

I am making a bold prediction for the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season.  The first named storm of the year, Andrea, will hit the Houston-Galveston area.  How can I make such a prediction? Let us take a look back in history.
The era of modern tropical cyclone naming in the Atlantic basin began in 1979, when the six rotating list of alternating men's and women's names began. Nineteen Eighty-three marked the first use of list #5, which is the same list (which changes due to retired names) that will be used in 2013.  The first named storm of 1983 was Major Hurricane Alicia.  Alicia was the last category three or higher hurricane to hit the Houston/Galveston area as of mid August, 2011.

The name Alicia was retired, and replaced with Allison.
The year 1989 marked the second use of list #5, and the first named storm of the year, Tropical Storm Allison, struck just a little down the coast from Freeport, TX (south of Houston and west of Galveston), and tracked across metropolitan Houston.
In 1995, Hurricane Allison was a" near" miss for the Houston-Galveston area, as the storm moved through the Eastern Gulf of Mexico to make landfall in Florida, to kick of the current active period in the Atlantic basin.

The next use of list #5 was in 2001, when Tropical Storm Allison dumped as much as 30 inches of rain on parts of Houston, after having made landfall at Galveston and looping over east Texas for several days.

Allison of 2001 is thus far the only Atlantic Tropical Storm to have its name retired, and was replaced with Andrea.
The first incarnation of Andrea, in 2007, was a subtropical storm that grazed the coast of part of the SE US, and came nowhere close to Texas:

It is apparent, Houston-Galveston is due for a hit from the 'A' storm from list #5, and the next chance of that is 2013.
Obviously, the "prediction" is a bit tongue-in-cheek.  The fact that that particular entry in an arbitrary list has made landfall within about a 100 mile stretch of coast three times is, while interesting, is not useful in predicting what might happen in the future.  It certainly seems anomalous.  I am curious if the same has happened with any other particular entry on one of the lists.

The Vanishing Texas River

By: angiest, 2:06 AM GMT on August 02, 2011

This is reposted from my main blog: Link

This past weekend, we made a trip to San Antonio, TX (we live in a western suburb of Houston).  This trip crosses several rivers, major and minor, as well as numerous streams (including what, in my opinion, is one of the most unique place-names in Texas: Woman Hollering Creek.)  I was rather looking forward to driving through squally weather from Tropical Storm Don, but, alas, that was not to be.  But I did get to observe the effects of the drought on waterways.  (unfortunately, no pictures)
First up, the Brazos River.  The Brazos is one of the most important rivers in Texas, with a sizeable watershed.    Brazos Watershed
The river has been quite lot for awhile, with numerous large sandbars.  Recent light to moderate rains have allowed grass to grow in the sandbars.
Next up, the San Bernard River. The San Bernard is not a large river at the best of time, just 100 miles long and draining less than 2,000 square miles of Texas.  The drought has taken quite a toll on this small river.  It was completely dry.  A month ago, on a different trip, we crossed the San Bernard  further south, and it was also dry there.  And by dry, I do mean I saw absolutely no water in the channel, at all.
The next major waterway was the Colorado River. This is one of the most important rivers in Texas, draining a sizable portion of the state.  Colorado River watershed
It is also one of the cleaner rivers in the state, as a decent part of its course flows through the Edwards Plateau, and the Llano Uplift.  Hence, it carries a lot of eroded limestone and granite with its heavy quartz load.  However, the Colorado looked very dirty where it crosses IH-10 near Columbus, and actually fairly stagnant.  Like the Brazos, it was full of sandbars, which I have never really seen in past years.
About 30 miles west of the Colorado, IH-10 cross the East and West Navidad Rivers, both forks of the Navidad River. The Navidad is even shorter than the San Bernard, and likewise drains a small part of the state:
Navidad watershed
I was unable to get a good look at the bed of the West Navidad River, but the East Navidad River appeared to be totally dry.  Crucially, the Navidad River supplies Lake Texana, a reservoir, which is well under 70% capacity, due to the drought.
The final few rivers on this trip, the San Marcos, and Guadalupe being the most important, are fed by the Edwards Aquifer, and actually did not appear to be in bad shape yet.  I was actually quite surprised about that.  Unfortunately, most of the smaller streams and creeks (too numerous to name) closer to San Antonio were totally dry.
Don, we could have used your help.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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