Dallas Flood: Vehicles Stranded, Water Rescues Underway Amid Historic Torrential Downpour

by Lauren Boisvert

After a massive drought dried out much of Dallas, Texas, a historic amount of rain now has the city underwater. Dallas remains under a flash flood warning today, Monday, August 22. This covers 4 million people in the area. Since Sunday, more than 450 requests for water rescues have been made by residents. The Dallas Police Department, along with the Fort Worth Fire Department and Dallas Fire-Rescue, have responded to rescue calls as well as over 100 traffic accidents.

The heavy rains have covered not only Dallas, but much of Northeastern Texas, Northern Louisiana, and even Southern Arkansas. These areas also remain under flash flood warnings. The storms started over Dallas on Sunday afternoon, dumping an entire summer’s worth of rain on the city into Monday morning. The National Weather Service recorded 10 inches of rainfall. This is only expected, on average, once every 100 years, according to the NWS. The NOAA also recorded 3 inches in one hour. That’s the most rain recorded in an hour since 1953, says the New York Post.

According to weather radar systems, areas that have already been affected by 10 inches of rain could get another 2 to 3 inches in addition by Monday night. If these areas see a foot of rainfall, that would push this weather event into the 1-in-500 range, according to the NOAA.

Dallas has seen a total of 16.5 inches of rainfall this year, with this storm accounting for 21% of that rain. Photos and videos of the flooding show vehicles stranded on the roadways, with some submerged in the middle of the highway. Residents reported intense flooding in their homes as well.

What is ‘Climate Whiplash,’ and Why is the Dallas Flood a Prime Example?

Scientists call this phenomenon “climate whiplash” or “weather whiplash,” and Dallas’ extreme flooding is a prime example. An intense drought previously hit Texas followed by historic rainfall and flash flooding. The weather turned on a dime, so to speak. This is most likely caused by climate change and the warming of the planet.

Drought followed by flooding is not only dangerous for residents in the moment, but it also destroys our environment for the future as well. Intense flooding washes away fertilizer and crops in agricultural areas. Record rainfall leaves those areas muddy and unplantable. Extreme freezing and thawing can lead to heavy rains that are in turn followed by a freeze. This creates a barrier of ice that traps food for foraging animals.

According to climate scientists, disruptions in the polar vortex caused by warmer temperatures could cause “climate whiplash.” These disruptions affect the jet stream, which facilitates extreme weather. According to Yale Environment 360, an unstable polar vortex directly causes intense, unusual weather. But, how does this affect us in the future?

“In theory, the extremes negatively impact the ability of a population to recover,” Bryan Black, tree-ring scientist at the University of Arizona, said to Yale. “The flip-flop from one extreme to another affects the resilience, and the biology is less able to rebound after the flip-flop in extremes. That’s what we’re working on now.”