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Could Tropical Storm Don End the Texas Drought?

Tropical Storm Don on July 29. (Image credit: NOAA/NASA.)

Tropical Storm Don is bearing down on south Texas, but the storm and its rains will likely pass too far south of the drought-stricken state to bring much relief.

The state of Texas is stuck in an epic drought. The past nine months have been the driest in the state's history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Towns such as Midland, where the past 10 months have been the 10 driest on record since the 1930s, aren't likely to get the drought-busting rain from Don that they desperately need.

"It looks like it's going to bring some rain, but it looks like it's going to go a little too far south" to quench the state's thirst, said hurricane forecaster Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Even cities near the coast, such as Houston, aren't likely to get any major drought relief, Klotzbach said.

Tropical Storm Don, the year's fourth named storm (tropical storms and hurricanes receive names) is swirling northwest toward south Texas and should make landfall in the early morning hours on Saturday (July 30). Don is currently about 200 miles (305 kilometers) southeast of Corpus Christi, Texas, and has wind speeds of up to 50 mph (85 kph). A tropical storm warning has been issued for nearly the entire Texas coast.

Rain from the storm is just now approaching the coast, but if the tropical storm continues on its projected path, central Texas may not see even half an inch of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Don is expected to bring nearly 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain to the far southern reaches of the state. But while that much rain sounds like it could chip away at the drought, it's such a large amount in such a short period of time that it is more than the dry ground can handle, said Alec Lyster, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Midland.

"When you get a lot of rain at one time, it doesn't get a chance to soak in," Lyster told OurAmazingPlanet.

So what is it going to take to end the drought?

"Steady rain that's not real, real hard, to where you don't get flooding and it's able to soak in," Lyster said.

For Midland, that type of rain isn't likely to come from Don, and as soon as the storm passes, the seemingly unending summer heat will be right back.

"Unfortunately it's looking that way," Lyster said. "It's going to be hot, hotter and hottest."

Email OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel at Follow him on Twitter @btisrael.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.