Updated Aug 23, 2022 - Science

Heavy rains and flooding threaten drought-stricken South and Southwest

A map showing the forecast heavy rainfall for this week across the U.S. and the Southwest in particular.
Photo: NOAA

Heavy rains across the U.S. South and Southwest triggered flooding that killed at least one person in Texas and prompted evacuations in Arizona on Monday — as the storms caused hundreds of flight cancellations.

Threat level: The National Weather Service warns the widespread heavy rain and flooding is expected to persist throughout the week, advancing slowly into the Lower Mississippi Valley and South.

A screenshot of NWS Fort Worth's tweet that several rainfall records were broken in the area on Monday.
Photo: NWS Fort Worth/Twitter

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: The rains in the South and Southwest won't bust the long-term, climate-change-driven megadrought in the region, but are enough to cause some short-term drought relief.

  • Unfortunately, they're also causing flash flooding, as the dry desert soils are unable to absorb high rainfall rates.

What's happening: A state of disaster was declared in Dallas County, one of the worst-hit areas, where authorities said a 60-year-old woman was killed after her vehicle was swept away by floodwaters.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that he has directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management "to increase its readiness level in response to flooding impacting communities across Texas."

Meanwhile, in Arizona, evacuation orders were in place in the rural town of Duncan, where the water level of the Gila River got so high that it overwhelmed a levee and spilled into the town, the Duncan Valley Rural Fire District said.

What's next: The storm system is forecast to shift slowly east during the week, threatening tens of millions during the next few days.

  • "Heavy Rain and Flash Flooding threats [are] expected across areas of east Texas into the Lower Mississippi Valley over the next two days," the NWS' Weather Prediction Center notes.
  • The NWS also issued a flash flood warning in parts of central North Carolina Monday evening.

Go deeper: We haven't built for this climate

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of rainfall records in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's response to the flooding.

Go deeper