March turned the cliché on its ear this year: It came in like (an overcooked) lamb and went out like a (very wet) lion.
This was the warmest March on record at Camp Mabry, Austin’s main weather station, just edging out March 1907, Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose said. The record average of 68.6 degrees in spring’s first month followed a winter that was also the warmest on record.
Put another way: “It has been the warmest first three months start to the year on record,” Rose said. “And not just by a little, but by a lot.”
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The record at Camp Mabry for the warmest first three months of the year had been 61.5 degrees, also set in 1907. The average temperature for the first three months of this year was 63 degrees at Mabry. At Austin’s other weather-monitoring station, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the average three-month temperature this year has been 61.9 degrees, surpassing 1990’s previous airport record of 59.6 degrees.
It’s not like a few spikes drove the temperature to an usually high average, either.
“The high and low temperature have just been persistently warmer than normal,” Rose said. “Aside from the one record high minimum temperature set on March 1, there have been no other record temperatures set this month.”
The warm temperatures did bring brief periods of heightened wildfire concern, a risk exacerbated by high winds and people dumb enough to throw cigarette butts out the window. But this year’s rainfall has mostly spared Central Texas from the drought threat that higher-than-normal temperatures create.
Thus far, 10.1 inches of rain have fallen this year at Camp Mabry, up from the norm of 7.2, with 12.1 inches at Austin-Bergstrom, up from the norm of 7.3. That includes the storms that hit in March and contributed to the 3.3 inches that fell last month at Austin-Bergstrom, about 20 percent more than usual. And it includes, of course, the rains earlier in the month that caused the cancellation of both the Zilker Kite Festival’s original weekend and its rescheduled date.
Because of the vagaries of rainfall patterns, Camp Mabry actually saw about 10 percent less rain than normal.
March also saw forecasters issue increasingly urgent warnings about inclement and possibly dangerous weather. Spring is traditionally the time when Central Texas experiences the most heavy rain, thunderstorms and flooding.
So far, so good, for the most part — though on Sunday, storms ripped through Central Texas, dropping more than an inch of rain across the Austin area, leaving uprooted trees and roof damage, shattering the glass panels of the Oasis restaurant and creating a funnel cloud over Lake Travis that witnesses say ripped the roof off of a Point Venture home.
Was it a waterspout?
The National Weather Service is still trying to determine whether damage caused Sunday in western Travis County was from a tornado or waterspout.
The damage pattern in and around Point Venture on Lake Travis is consistent with high winds, meteorologist Yvette Benavides told the American-Statesman. Evidence indicates that a tornado or waterspout could have formed, but not enough to make an official determination, she said.
Investigators are looking for more footage or any other information that could help determine the nature of the weather phenomenon that caused the damage, Benavides said. The weather service’s New Braunfels office, which covers the Austin area, can be reached at 830-629-0130.