A lot of water fell on Texas in May. A lot of water. Anyone with an eye on the news or the Weather Channel has seen the footage of underwater highways, submerged vehicles, and devastating flood damage all across the state. For almost the entire month of May, Texas was swallowed up in a deluge of rain the likes of which we haven’t seen in years, and the recovery effort will certainly be long and arduous.
So how much water are we talking about, exactly?
All the images and videos provide little glimpses into areas where floodwaters were several feet high—pictures and overhead drone video from Houston make the city look almost unrecognizable. The same goes for much of Central Texas, where people, clinging to fences after getting stuck in flash floods, had to be rescued. But what would happen if you were to put all those flooded streets, bayous, and rivers together?
According to CNN, if you collected all the rain Texas received in May, it could cover the entire state with eight inches of water. Considering the state is about 268,000 square miles in size, that’s an incredible amount of water—about 37.3 trillion gallons of water, according to the National Weather Service.
The Washington Post used some now-outdated rainfall totals to determine what all could be done with that amount of water. Acre-feet are the standard by which floodwater is measured. Using acre-feet, represented by cubes, the Post created visuals that put Texas’s rainfall from May into perspective.
By the Post’s May 27 calculation of eight million acre-feet of rain, enough water fell on Texas to cover the entire state of Rhode Island in ten feet of water. Put all eight million of those acre-feet in a giant, metaphorical cube, and it would be big enough to trump the Statue of Liberty several times over and make the world’s tallest building look like a sandcastle. That amount of water, the Post calculated, would be enough to meet the water needs of New York City’s 8.4 million residents for seven years. It’s enough water to double the volume of Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the country.
And again, that was before the most recent storms washed through Texas over the weekend.
For now, the forecast is clear of any upcoming rain. The rain that could have covered the entire state in eight inches of water is flowing back into the rivers and the Gulf. Previously empty bodies of water, like Austin’s Lake Travis, are now teeming with a fresh supply of rain. Communities are rebuilding and working to help those who lost friends and family to the floods. Bit by bit, the state is putting itself back together.
(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)