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The month of April brought a shift toward warmer temperatures and more active weather patterns for the Lone Star State. Dry conditions persisted throughout the Panhandle and parts of west and southern Texas allowing for a degradation of drought conditions and the outbreak of wildfires in these areas. Many portions of the state also experienced intense severe weather systems that brought heavy rains, damaging winds, and hail. Nearly 9 months out from Hurricane Harvey, state legislative powers and city officials within southeast Texas continued to work towards improving recovery efforts throughout the region.

For some Texas residents, April’s enjoyable warm weather was delayed as cool air continued to blow in from the north. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Lubbock started the first weekend of the month by issuing a Freeze Warning for western Texas residents. The hard freeze put pets and plants at risk as temperatures dropped significantly from the previous hours. The cool air was also able to make its way into South Texas. A cold front pushed its way southward into Laredo on April 4 dropping temperatures into the low 50s, much lower than the usual 80-90 degrees. It was by the next week that temperatures began a climb toward more average April conditions. As winds in the southern sector of the state shifted toward the north, onshore flow from the Gulf allowed for warm and moist air to be brought landward. A hot and sunny day in Houston lead to the year’s first Ozone Action Day issuance on April 16. The forecasted air quality index for the metroplex suggested that sensitive groups such as the youth and elderly were most susceptible to health risks due to ground-level ozone.

During this notably dry season in Texas, drought conditions increased for several regions in north and west Texas. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, some northern Panhandle areas were first designated as in “exceptional drought” (D4 classification) at the end of March. This classification extended into the central parts of the Panhandle by the end of April. Ranchers and livestock producers in this region experienced some of the worst effects of these exceptional drought conditions. The USDA recognized these hardships and began a financial compensation program for eligible livestock and ranching losses. Another concern during this dry season was a lack of water conservation in some communities. Led by the Texas Living Waters Project, officials are trying to urge residents to reduce water usage as a means of combating a loss of city water in areas where drought conditions were severe.

April is also considered one of the peak months for severe weather in Texas. Strong thunderstorms pushed through Texas during the early parts of the month, leading to hazardous weather conditions. A system that passed through San Antonio brought heavy rains, cloud-to-ground lightning, and golf ball-sized hail to the southern Texas region. A large cell in southeast Houston also produced sizeable hail and heavy rains, though the main issue was strong winds. Winds in excess of 80 mph severely damaged a hanger at Hobby Airport, according to on-site wind measurements. Surveying completed by the National Weather Service suggest that the damage may have been caused by a strong microburst.

Southeast Texas residents continued to recover from Hurricane Harvey this month. FEMA notified some Harvey evacuees that they must leave their government-funded hotels after an efficient amount of housing in their displaced regions had become available. Texas legislative officials began pressuring regulators to be tougher on pollution rules after discovering that 200 toxic spills occured in the Houston area during Harvey. Some environmental groups spoke to legislative officials at Texas A&M University about mitigating future flood damage by introducing the “Ike Dike”. The purpose of the large-scale barrier system is protect Galveston, Houston, and Bolivar Peninsula residents from strong storm surges caused by strong storms.

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