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Fair forecast

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Below-normal temperatures may indicate mild summer

May has teed up summer more like the summer of 2004, when the region saw just one day reach 100 degrees.

It was the third consecutive month with below-normal temperatures for the region, giving some residents hope for relief from a third year of scorching heat. The summer of 2011 paraded 71 days above the century mark that ultimately helped make it the region’s hottest summer ever. Last summer didn’t make quite such a show of it, but it was still hotter than normal.

The National Weather Service tallied up the mean temperatures for May 2013 and found them nearly 2 degrees below normal, making this spring the coolest on record since 1997, meteorologists said.

Part of the dip in mean temperature can be attributed to so few days getting excessively warm, according to meteorologist Jason Dunn. Graham and Breckenridge saw temperatures above 100 degrees on May 17.

“Also, several strong cold fronts came through and kept temperatures way below normal,” Dunn said.

Morning lows on May 3 and May 4 were among the lowest ever recorded for the region, with some locations recording an unprecedented freeze.

For grower Brian Blalock, those freezes meant long nights in the fields with all his sprinklers running. He even watered by hand to prevent frost from forming.

“The cool weather has been great to some extent, but that cold weather at the end of April and beginning of May put stuff way behind,” Blalock said.

He has zucchini and other squash at his stand at the Denton County Farmers Market this week. Many other crops, such as cucumbers and peppers, will come soon. While cantaloupe is catching up, it will be at least a month before he will have any watermelon, he said.

“And the okra is way behind — that’s a hot-weather crop,” Blalock said.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agent Janet Laminack said many home gardeners were caught off guard by May’s cold temperatures, too. Some have had to replant tomatoes and have seen heat-loving plants, such as basil and eggplant, slow to grow.

But residents still may want to ready themselves for a long, hot summer. The Climate Prediction Center’s current models show a 40 percent to 50 percent probability that temperatures will be higher than normal for North Texas. The center’s models use climate indicators from around the globe to calculate probability for temperature and precipitation for up to three months into the future, Dunn said.

While the drought in West Texas and the Panhandle is expected to continue, East Texas and North Texas may see enough rain to continue the recovery, according to the center’s models.

Spring saw showers and storms, but it was still drier than normal. Overall, the National Weather Service in Fort Worth found that Denton was below average in precipitation, with 2.3 inches less than normal rainfall recorded at Denton Enterprise Airport between January and May. The region is down 3.09 inches at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Before watering, area residents may want to check local restrictions. Beginning June 1 and through Sept. 30, the city of Denton does not permit watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., except for hand-watering and watering foundations with a soaker hose.

This week does bring more rain chances, Dunn said, although in a pattern more typical for the start of summer.

Storms are expected to form to the west and in the High Plains and then move toward the region beginning Wednesday and continuing through Saturday. The pattern brings with it a 20 percent chance of storms for the region every day, Dunn said.

“That means some people won’t see rain the whole time and others might get rain each day,” Dunn said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.