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Rain clouds may bring heavy precipitation to the Southwest this week
<p>Rain clouds may bring heavy precipitation to the Southwest this week.</p>

El Niño rains to help and hinder Texas crops

Forecasters continue to predict a wet winter season as a result of El Ni&ntilde;o, which could stretch into spring planting next year. Forecasters say it could be a week of heavy precipitation across the region.

Climate conditions building up for nearly a week now will bring heavy moisture to Texas and much of the Southwest throughout the week with some areas expected to receive heavy rains as a three-sided weather anomaly develops.

National Weather Service forecasters in Midland say strong prevailing Pacific winds are streaming into the Southwest, driven by the effects of a particularly strong El Niño event in the equatorial waters of the Pacific and stretching into mid-Pacific region. Add to that a heavy moisture flow from Tropical Storm Patricia just off the Mexican coast, which has already fired off heavy rain showers in New Mexico and Arizona along with snows in northern reaches of both states. Forecasters say it could be a week of heavy precipitation across the region.

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Patricia is expected to develop into a hurricane Thursday and will likely be caught up by El Niño-driven winds and carried on to shore Friday, eventually bringing more heavy rain to the Southwest region and eventually into Central and deep South Texas.

On Tuesday heavy rains fell across Arizona and New Mexico and Phoenix recorded a heavy hail storm. Baseball-size hail fell across parts of the High Plain in Texas early Wednesday as well and forecasters say conditions will only deteriorate over the next 24 to 72 hours.

The NWS Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a risk of severe thunderstorms Wednesday evening and possibly lasting through the weekend across the Southwest from southern and eastern New Mexico into West Texas and the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. The main threats will be large hail and damaging winds. Meanwhile, excessive rainfall will bring a threat of flash flooding to parts of the southern Plains and eventually into Central Texas and as far south as the Gulf Coast.

"We could see some significant weather conditions developing as a result of several factors, including Pacific moisture streaming in from the west, invasion of Gulf moisture from the south, and a cool front approaching from the north," warns NWS forecaster Greg Murdoch.

Harvest delays likely

For farmers across the Southwest, especially in the High and Southern Plains and into South Texas, harvest operations underway could be delayed as a result of heavy rains and high winds. On the brighter side, welcome rains could provide a boost to recently planted winter wheat and oats across Texas. USDA reported in their Oct. 18 Crop Progress and Condition Report that wheat fields suffered damage due to dry conditions and insects over the last two weeks in some areas of the Northern High Plains.

Already rain and high winds have disrupted defoliant applications to cotton fields in the Trans-Pecos region and some ongoing cotton harvesting operations in the High Plains. Farmers scrambled ahead of the weather to move baled cotton to gin or shelter.

USDA reported as of Sunday (Oct. 18), 75 percent of Texas corn had been harvested, but only 28 percent of cotton. Almost all cotton in the southern half of the state has been harvested, but cotton harvest in the Southern and High Plains is either just getting started or is being prepared for harvest.

Harvesting operations by peanut farmers near the New Mexico border will also be affected for most if not all of the remaining week. USDA reports only 24 percent of peanuts in Texas had been harvested as of last Sunday's USDA report.

Rain is expected to benefit the 35 percent of winter wheat and 20 percent of oats that have emerged. Significant rains could slow late planting of wheat through the weekend.

Overall, with hail damage excepted, much needed moisture likely to occur across large areas of Texas as tropical-like weather moves in should be beneficial, especially to pasture forage and the prospect for winter grasses. While drought conditions largely abated in most of Texas as a result of heavy spring rains this year, recent months have seen the return of dry conditions, especially in East Texas.

Fall vegetables and winter spinach are expected to benefit as a result of much needed rain this week as well. Of greatest concern are possible high winds and hail damage to cotton in the plains.

Forecasters continue to predict a wet winter season as a result of El Niño, which could stretch into spring planting next year.

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