Its official! Spring 2011 is the driest and one of the warmest on record. If you define Spring as the months March through May, then Houston's abysmal rainfall of 1.22" puts this year at the top of a very interesting list. The prior record holders each have an interesting distinction: their Spring drought was followed by some notable deluges.
Prior to this year, the driest Spring was 1996 with 2.73". As an exercise, I had our new summer intern look up the rainfall for the following six months to see if anything unusual showed up. It turns out that from June to December 1996, Houston recorded 37.91", about 8" more than usual for that time period. The bulk of it fell in August, but not from a tropical storm. The next driest Spring was 2003. Later that summer, Hurricane Claudette and Tropical Storm Grace helped boost rainfall totals by about 8". However, the most notable Spring was 1998 which was followed by a very dry summer and then Tropical Storm Frances, which inundated the area with 10" of rain in September, causing localized flooding.
I heard someone once say that Houston droughts are often interrupted by flooding. Let's hope we don't break any records the other way this summer, but it wouldn't surprise me if something tropical this way came. Not the kind of news you want to hear at the start of hurricane season. Stay tuned.