Winter and Spring Drought in Texas 2021-2022
In Texas, everybody knows that you need to water your foundation during the summer. It is also common knowledge that if you do not water your foundation, you are risking foundation damage. What most people do not realize is that winter droughts can also damage a foundation!
So far, for the period from September thru March (and so far in April) the DFW area is way behind in rainfall.
Month Normal Actual Over (Under)
September 2.42 .25 (2.17)
October 4.11 2.96 (1.15)
November 2.57 3.11 .54
December 2.57 .43 (2.14)
January 1.90 .08 (1.82)
February 2.37 2.03 ( .34)
March 3.06 2.12 ( .94)
The normal rainfall for the period September through March is 19.0 inches (the source for this information is Weather.com) while actual rainfall has been only 10.98 inches (from the National Weather Service). Not counting April, which is behind normal, we are 8.02 inches of rain below our normal level. The recent thunderstorms have greened up the grass and dampened the surface soils. Unfortunately, the deeper soils, below a foot or two, remain abnormally dry.
Why are we in a drought? Every 10 years or so, the surface waters in the Pacific ocean warm up, and the warm water drifts toward California. The warm water typically causes the weather in the southern plains, which includes Texas, to be warmer and dryer than usual. The long-term forecast is for the weather to stay warmer and dryer than normal into the spring.
Normally, as the fall and winter proceed, the soils gradually absorb water. As the soils absorb water, they swell up, reversing the settlement that took place during the summer. The below-normal rainfall that we have had means that the soils are actually drying out. Instead of summer settlement being reversed, the soils are still settling. As soils dry out, they shrink, and that can cause foundation damage.
We are now at the time when the trees are leafing out and temperatures are rising; both conditions increase the rate at which the soils lose water.
So, what should you do? Even though it is springtime, you should continue to water your foundation, although you should reduce the amount of water that you add to the soil. A small amount of water in the winter goes a lot further than the same amount in the summer because there is so much less evaporation. As long as the weather stays dry, continue to water your foundation, but cut the amount of water in half. If you find that the soils around your house are becoming too wet, cut back the amount of watering. On the other hand, if you see signs of settlement, consider increasing your watering.
If we are fortunate enough to have a period of sustained rain, say 5 or 6 inches in a month, you can stop watering until the summer comes. In the meantime, keep those hoses running!