Hurricane Allen feared by a destructive killer, could end by bringing life to some parched Texas crops and cooler temperatures to sweltering cities.
Allen remained at hurricane strength this afternoon as it moved inland. But in Brownsville, after the storm began to lose its intensity, a National Weather Service official said. "It's just a big old thunderstorm now."
Thunderstorms, or rain in any form, have been rare commodities in Texas this summer. Most of the state had been locked in a drought that had destroyed an estimated $2 billion in crops through the end of July.
As farmers worried over their fields, city dwellers looked at their dried-out lawns and broiled under day after day of 100 degree plus temperatures.
A high-pressure system, which forecasters say is abnormal for north central Texas, had been stalled directly above Dallas-Fort Worth since mid-June, causing an unrelenting heat wave that killed hundreds of people throughout the Southwest. Forecasters said that strong winds from a major storm in the Gulf of Mexico would be needed to drive the high pressure system back and Allen appeared to fit the bid.
Weather experts, however, say that should Allen lose its force or stall in south central Texas, the break in the heat wave in the northern part of the state would be only fleeting.
If Texas were hoping today that Allen's continued journey could bring them benefits, it came after fears of what could have happened had the hurricane hit with full force. Another $400 million in crops would have been wiped out, state agriculture commissioner Reagan Brown had estimated.
Instead, the 7 1/2 to 10 inches that Allen was dumping today on south and central Texas, though to late to help many summer crops, will aid conditions for fall plantings, he said.
As growers began surveying their fields after the storm's passage, it was too early to tell whether Allen would balance out to be more of a curse or a blessing.
Citrus corps in the Rio Grande Valley appeared heavily damaged, but other surveys showed rice, sugar cane and sorghum had survived the winds and were soaking up the rain.
State officials hoped that Allen would continue moving to the northwest, spreading its rains into the wheat producing Panhandle. If the storm stalled in a single area, as did Hurricane Anita in 1978, the heavy concentrations of rain could bring damaging floods. Some central Texas cities received more than 30 inches from Anita.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which by Saturday had seen just one day in the last 50 when temperatures did not break 100, Allen's immediate effect was an expectation of relief -- a relatively cool, forecast for Monday of a high in the mid-90s.
The weather service regional headquarters here said that the temperature could remain below 100 for several days. Daily highs would decrease even more if Allen moves northward and brings rain to the area, it said.
Rain was also in the Dallas-Fort Worth forecast; the cities have received about half of the normal rain-fall for this time of the year.