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Drought/Burn Bans/Fire Hazards

County-wide burn bans through March 1

Monthly Change in Drought Monitor Classification

U.S. Drought Monitor, February 3, 2009
U.S. Drought Monitor, February 24, 2009

Feb. 1 – In the Panhandle of Texas, firefighters fought a blaze which consumed a ten square mile/6,400 acre area near Pampa. Near Amarillo, firefighters fought a smaller 500 acre blaze, though neither of the fires threatened any buildings. Strong winds gusting up to 40 mph, dry vegetation, and warm temperatures caused the fire to gain much ground in very little time.

In the past week and a half, firefighters around Texas, according to the Texas Forest Service, responded to 163 wildfires encompassing over 7,899 acres.

Feb. 2 – In coastal Brazoria County, a large grass fire threatened homes in a Pearland subdivision, where fire officials issued a voluntary evacuation as a precautionary measure. Though burning only 14 acres, the fire sends a timely warning to anyone dealing with any type of fire to be extremely careful that dry vegetation does not catch.

Customers of the Lower Neches Valley Authority have been asked for voluntary conservation of water from Lake Sam Rayburn. Compared to normal years, lake levels have been very poor, though forecasts point to wetter conditions in the following months.

Feb. 5 – Montgomery county officials report that fire hazards are especially high in the county, due to strong, dry winds, little rainfall, low soil moisture, dead vegetation, and also debris from Hurricane Ike. Unusually dry winter conditions have prolonged and worsened the fire season.

Feb. 6 – Strong, gusty winds are expected for the weekend, with wind gusts of 40-45 mph. North Texas firefighters warn residents to avoid any outside fires due to the dangerous fire situation.

Due to Bastrop's burn ban from dry conditions, the Texas Department of Transportation has buried animal carcasses found on nearby roads instead of burning them. TxDOT says that 3-4 animals per week have been found on the roads due to drought.

Feb. 8 – Drought conditions are expected to persist or even worsen in North Texas during the upcoming months. Nearly two thirds of Texas is experiencing at least abnormally dry conditions, while several counties in Central Texas are experiencing exceptional drought.

Feb. 13 – Central Texas, although grateful for the rainfall from the severe storms, still has a long road to beat the drought. Although more than an inch fell in many places, several solid rainfalls must occur to break the drought in the area. In North Texas, official rain totals were only 0.13 inches. Because of the fast moving, narrow line of showers, more thunder and lightning were seen than the much-needed rain.

Feb. 17 - Bastrop county officials have urged state officials to declare the county as a disaster area due to the extraordinary drought conditions they have seen through the past year. They cite that hay production is down, cattle prices are low, and feed prices are high.

Similarly, Caldwell county officials have asked the state for drought relief, feeling that the drought is beyond their ability to manage.

Feb. 19 – Nearly 88% of Texas is experiencing some drought conditions, says Steve Quiring of Texas A%M. The Austin and San Antonio areas are undergoing drought conditions not seen for more than 90 years.

Feb. 22 – Limited and diminishing water resources near Lubbock have caused water rates to increase and are forecast to continue increasing in the next few years. Lubbock has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to gather water from Lake Meredith which at its lowest levels since its formation.

Feb. 23 – The Texas Rainwater Catchment Association will hold the group's first state conference from March 20-21 in Kerrville's Hill Country Youth Exhibit Center. The group will discuss green energy technology, rainwater capture systems, and other environmentally friendly advancements, perhaps a timely event during Texas' drought.

The Del Rio City Council is holding a hearing for a new drought contingency plan. Officials hope to adopt a new plan which will help conserve water resources and prepare for a possible future water emergency.

Feb. 24 – Lakes Belton and Stillhouse in Bell County have slowly dropped throughout the past 6 months due to continuing drought; a park manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sees similarities between the present drought and that of 2006. The last heavy rainfall to fill the lakes was seen in July 2007, when most of Texas was drenched with rain.

Agricultural Impacts


Feb. 8 – Cattle numbers have fallen 2% from last year. Very few aspects of the cattle industry are looking up, and drought has stressed many livestock yards to the point that many of their stock have been sold to meat distributors.


Feb. 17 – Wildflower seekers should expect bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes to lack the numbers of wetter years, since very little fall rain will stress the populations. However, native, hardier wildflowers which have adapted to too little rain should remain plentiful.

Feb. 21 – Quail hunters in Coleman County report that hunting dogs cannot pick up any quail scent due to the very dry conditions in the county. Wet years generally bring solid hunting conditions, but the drought has lowered quail numbers significantly in the region.


Feb. 3 – Many farmers throughout the state are waiting to see if spring will bring wet conditions to Texas and have delayed planting their usual crops. Irrigation costs have risen such that farmland is not receiving the moisture it needs to maintain good crops.

Feb. 5 – Some cotton growers have switched temporarily to other crops, such as sorghum, after demand for cotton has dropped within the last few months. AgriLife economists expect that production of cotton will not slump for long, unless the drought persists and farmers decide for alternative crops.

Feb. 13 – Peanut farmers in Texas have become concerned due to recent peanut product recalls. Detestable conditions in some peanut storage facilities have led to unusable stocks and are creating strained economies for the nation's second largest peanut producing state.

Feb. 18 – Wheat prices globally fell even with the report that almost two thirds of the Texas winter wheat crop was under very poor conditions. The drought has put a major strain on many wheat farmers in Texas. An AgriLife Extension agronomist suggests that wheat producers fertilize their crops and that wheat's jointing stage could be earlier this year due to a very warm February thus far.

Feb. 27 – Established Texas farmers recalling the 1950s drought say they are experiencing an entirely different event. Almost 97% of Texas is in some drought, and places like San Antonio and Austin are the driest areas in the country. Unless La Nina deteriorates like forecasters predict, agricultural costs in the coming months could be devastating.

Other Climate Impacts

Wintry Weather

Feb. 3—A former psychiatrist died near Denton from effects of hypothermia after sleeping outdoors in well below freezing temperatures. The 60 year old woman was backpacking through a neighborhood the day before she was found in a creek bed wrapped in blankets.

Feb. 6 – A child near Llano spent the night outdoors before being recovered the next morning. When found, the child was barely responsive and suffering from hypothermia, but despite freezing temperatures, the boy is recovering well.

Severe Storms/Inclement Weather

Feb. 9 – In Tyler, police responded to at least 37 traffic accidents from slick, rain-soaked roads in less than 8 hours. One person is confirmed dead and another severely injured after a pickup truck hydroplaned into oncoming traffic.

Transportation Department reports show U.S. airlines performed poorly in December, with on-time arrivals at a low 65.3 %, nearly 20% lower than in November. About half of all delays were caused by weather related events, including ice storms and foggy skies.

Feb.10-12 – Severe weather wreaked havoc in many parts of Texas. A mobile home in Spring in Harris County was nearly cut in two when a tree slammed into its side, though the family narrowly escaped with no serious injuries.

Around 4,600 energy customers in Central Texas lost power when the severe storm swept through the area, while 11,000 energy customers in Galveston County lost power for a few hours as gusts reaching 40 mph hit the region.

The city of Hillsboro reported a wind gust of 88 mph during the severe event. Hamilton County officials reported downed trees and power lines, and Waco officials reported a metal roof was blown off a vacant shopping center.

The first tornado confirmed by the NWS, rated EF-1 on the enhanced Fujita scale, touched down in Colleyville near Dallas/Fort Worth, which was 100 yards wide and left a half mile damage path. Top wind speeds are estimate at 90 mph.

The second tornado rated EF-0 with 80 mph winds touched down in Belcherville in Montague County. It blew a roof off a barn and damaged fencing, though no injuries or other major damage were reported.

The third and strongest tornado, rated EF-1, was confirmed near Spanish Fort in Montague County. Winds are estimate at 100 mph, and damages were seen in trees as large as 2.5 feet in diameter.

Feb. 21 – Volunteers help clean up a camp for the deaf called Isaiah's Place after the camp was basically leveled from severe weather ten days ago. Meteorologists cannot yet tell weather such damage occurred from high winds or a tornado.

Feb. 22 – Rusk County citizens can now be notified of severe weather via telephone, using a new "ultra high speed" telephone communicator. Citizens can sign up for severe weather alerts, but all landline telephones will receive emergency notifications.

Feb. 24 – Severe Weather Awareness Week in Texas brings safety tips and precautions to the state. Meteorologists urge all citizens statewide, especially those in the famed "tornado alley," to purchase a NOAA weather radio and to heed alerts on severe weather, including tornadoes. Walker County emergency officials use the awareness week to assess preparedness through a citywide tornado warning drill, while Dallas/Fort Worth city officials have created new warning system guidelines to warn residents of severe weather in the area.


Feb. 2 – Animal Control officials in East Texas warn residents that seasonably warm temperatures can tempt snakes out of their dens for some sunning. Residents are cautioned to be careful when walking near gardens or even ankle-high grass. No one, except trained experts, should ever handle snakes.

Toxic algae have killed fish in the Bravos River in Fort Bend County. Because of very low precipitation over the past months, places along the river have become stagnant pools of water, increasing salt concentration and, coupled with the seasonably warm temperatures and cool nights, creating a perfect growing habitat for the algae.

Bird Species

Feb. 2 – Purple Martin numbers have weakened due to continuing drought in Texas. The dry conditions have left nestlings thin, weak, and hungry from reduced insect numbers, says the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

Hurricane Impacts

Feb. 4 - The Texas Legislative Budget Board announced that hurricanes of 2008 dented the Texas budget by $1.7 billion. Budget writers for 2009 are struggling to weigh damages and allot money for rebuilding damaged areas of Texas.

Feb. 18 – Beaumont students under the direction of FEMA take charge in hurricane prevention by building a model home designed to withstand hurricane forced winds. They hope that these engineering suggestions help to spur coastal residents to reinforce their homes.


Feb. 5 – Dairy farmers in Waco affected by a falling economy, drought, and high feed costs have experienced dwindling stock numbers. As a result, water quality in Waco has improved due to less runoff from dairy yards.

Feb. 20 – Strep cases are double their normal levels so far in 2009. Due to abnormally warm, spring-like weather and increasing flu cases, students and parents have become more susceptible to strains of strep, and doctors urge anyone infected to receive treatment.


Feb. 15 – Insurance premiums in Texas are statistically 50% higher than they should be based on the amount of weather damage per land area, according to the Dallas Morning News. However, the Insurance Commission says such statistics must be carefully evaluated to take into account other factors.


Feb. 5 – The Xcel Energy company will partner the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Center for Atmospheric Research to create wind farms located at key, windy areas in Texas and other states. Renewable energy sources will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing coal-fired power plants.

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