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Was This May One Of Austin’s Rainiest Ever? It Depends On Your Part Of Town

A person walks on the UT Austin campus in May 2019.
Gabriel C. Pérez
A person walks on the UT Austin campus in May 2019.

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May is typically Austin’s rainiest month, but this one felt even wetter than usual for some. It was rainy enough for Faith Lavaee to write to KUT with a question:

“Why does it seem to have been raining every day for the past 6 weeks?” Lavaee asked our ATXplained project. “I don't remember it ever raining this much in May in Austin.”

So, is the recent rain really that unusual?

It depends on what part of Austin you're talking about.

According to rainfall totals in Camp Mabry, Austin's main weather station near MoPac Boulevard and West 35th Street, this May brought 7.23 inches of rain. That’s about 50% more than the average rainfall of 5.04 inches, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Fogerty.

But it’s still nothing for the history books.

“That doesn’t make the top 25,” Fogerty said. “It’s the 26th highest May rainfall.”

But drive about 15 minutes southeast to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and you get a different story. Rainfall totals at the weather station there were a remarkable 12.27 inches, making it the fourth rainiest May recorded at ABIA.

Fogerty said that variation is actually typical for spring thunderstorms, which can be highly localized.

As for why spring is so rainy, he said it has to do with thunderstorms interacting with very humid air.

“We get more Gulf moisture over the area at this time of year, and then the thunderstorms can feed off of that,” Fogerty said. “And whenever we get storms they can produce heavy rain.”

As long as they don’t bring floods, springs rains are good news for a bunch of reasons. For one thing they keep hotter temperatures at bay in early summer by locking moisture into the ground. That makes it harder for the sun to heat up the earth and the air once summer starts.

The wet weather has also helped alleviate drought conditions that had been dragging since last year. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, there is no drought in Travis, Williamson and Bastrop counties, though there are portions of those counties that are deemed abnormally dry. About 2% of Hays County is considered to be under moderate drought conditions.

Right now, meteorologists are expecting more rainy weather at least into the first week of June. June is Austin’s third rainiest month on average after May and October.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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