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Drought/Burn Bans/Fire Hazards

County-wide burn bans through February 1

Monthly Change in Drought Monitor Classification

U.S. Drought Monitor, January 6, 2009
U.S. Drought Monitor, January 27, 2009

January 2 – Austin water conservation experts discuss a planning process for water management around the state. Due to prolonged drought in many areas of Texas, managers have discussed water transfer projects affecting the San Antonio Water System. Experts assert that planning now is the key to proper water resources in the near and distant future.

January 3 – The Hill Country drought has been affecting local wildlife dramatically. Deer have feed on protein supplements placed by deer managers due to lack of winter grass. Shallow tanks have already run dry and water is becoming a scarce commodity for wildlife.

Dr. Travis D. Miller of the Texas AgriLife Extension says forecasts indicate a dry 2009 spring. Forecasts are unclear about the length of the drought, but experts believe dry conditions will prevail at least through March.

January4 - Very dry weather mixed with dry vegetation has lead the Texas Forest Service to list the Wichita Falls region as a high risk for fire danger.

January 5 – San Antonio recorded the 3rd driest year on record in 2008. Non-existent wild winter grass, very low creek levels, and even death of native trees are due to drought stress in the area.

January 12 – New laws concerning water sprinklers have been praised for their water conservation awareness, but installation prices for new systems have practically doubled in cost. Yet, water management officials assert that the sprinkler system’s benefits certainly outweigh its costs.

January 17 – The San Marcos Springs flow has concerned some water officials. Therefore, the Edwards Aquifer Authority has urged residents to conserve water and spread conservation measures throughout the city. Water restrictions and mandates could soon follow voluntary conservation.

January 20 – Firefighters in Montgomery County have responded to several fires in the area most likely due to the recent cold spell. Statewide, ten fire deaths have been reported thus far.

January 24 – As the statewide drought continues, grass fires have burned thousands of acres when high winds cause small controlled fires to quickly become out of control. Many areas of Texas are under exceptional drought, and all but a handful of counties are under at least abnormally dry conditions.


January 4 – Seguin volunteer fire departments were pleased with the fireworks ban, responding to only four calls, 66 less than last year. Officials lauded area citizens for their cooperation in creating a safe holiday period.

January 11 – Midland county legislatures have discussed a possible fireworks safety zone, wherein county citizens could set off fireworks safely. This legislation would attempt to decrease the fire danger encountered every year from fireworks, though the concentrations of people in the safety zones may not be safer alternative.

Inclement Weather

Severe Weather

January 3 – The Houston Ship Channel was temporarily shut down when dense fog hovered in the air, reducing visibility drastically to about a quarter of a mile. The U.S. Coast Guard reported that twenty tankers were hindered by the delay.

January 27 - Killeen Regional Airport saw a few minor delays due to a thick fog which densely covered the ground for several hours, though no flights were cancelled. Rain and ice could potentially cause more delays within the next day.

Due to some mist and fog, around 3,000 electricity customers lost power in Bell County. Dust on electric lines mixed with the mist to create a muddy situation.

January 29 – Because of the wintry weather over the past few days, area schools have closed to the delight of some young students. However, Texas Education Agency officials confirm that those missed days will be made up.

As a result of ice accumulation around the area, an early morning dense fog has delayed the two major Dallas airports. A few cancellations were reported, though most flights have only been delayed around a half an hour.

Wintry Weather

Jan 5. - North Texas experienced freezing rain conditions in the morning which created slick roads and windshields coated with ice. Several minor accidents were reported in Wichita Falls due to the ice.

Nearly 60 car accidents were reported in Abilene as freezing rain and sleet on nearby roads and highways caused treacherous driving conditions. Extra help was summoned from local emergency crews, responding to several rollover accidents.

A new sprinkler ordinance for businesses and residents of Dallas/Fort Worth has been issued stating sprinklers should be turned off in freezing weather. One person was killed in December due to icy roads from frozen sprinkler water.

January 6 - In Lubbock, emergency units responded to more than 100 accidents from icy roads. Snow which fell due to a weather disturbance over the area melted and turned into a very dangerous coat of ice, especially on bridges and overpasses.

Tens of thousands of electricity customers in Dallas/Fort Worth have lost power due to the ice buildup on power lines, though the area was spared a more serious situation. Any accumulation occurred above ground, leaving roads and pathways clear.

January 10 – Central Texas experienced its share of wintry weather, as icy roads meant dangerous travel for several Central Texas counties. Wreckers ceased reporting to accidents due to lack of a stable base when retrieving cars.

January 12 – Jacksboro residents experienced freezing rain and a multitude of traffic accidents, including one involving two Texas Tech students returning to school. Drivers are warned to stay off roads unless travel is absolutely necessary.

January 15 – North Texas should expect the strongest cold front to push through the area in the next day or so. Though temperatures should be well below freezing, no precipitation or ice accumulation is expected due to very dry air within the arctic air mass.

January 16 – Dallas/Fort Worth residents woke up to the coldest temperature of the area in nearly two years. Officially, the temperature dropped to a low of 22°F, though the area was spared the single digit temperatures of the Midwest.

January 17 – Residents of North Texas are urged to buy a rain and freeze sensor to install for their sprinkler system. This prevents unnecessary watering on rainy days and prevents dangerous conditions of watering in freezing temperatures.

January 27 – To counter the layer of ice on roads, the Texas Department of Transportation spreads a mixture of salt and sand over several roads in Texas. However, the process is expensive and costs $40,000/day in Tarrant County alone.

Reports indicate that 22 accidents in the Wichita Falls area were caused by the cold weather which recently pummeled the region, including one serious injury. The NWS indicated temperatures would remain near to above freezing, though icy roads are expected.

In Fort Worth, nearly 160 accidents were reported in less than half a day as very dangerous conditions prevailed on area roadways, including one fatality. Residents are urged to be extremely careful until the following morning, as icy road conditions were expected to continue until the following morning.

January 28 – Texas Department of Public Safety officials report that seven deaths around Texas have been caused by icy roadways. Quarter-inch ice has accumulated on some bridges and overpasses, and many businesses and schools have closed due to dangerous conditions. The total cost of this ice storm have been difficult to calculate, says the Insurance Council of Texas, though generally ice storms cause much less damage than severe summer weather such as tornadoes.

Other Climate Impacts


January 1 – As a project designed to help their environment, young Austin students are pushing for an anti-idling rule around their school to cut some of the noxious pollutants emitted by an idling vehicle.

Pest Control

January 3 – Because of the lack of hard freezes during the past few years, coupled with a relatively wet spring, rodent levels have swelled to unprecedented numbers in North Texas. Cold weather over the past month have sent these rodents into residences, creating a messy problem for North Texans.

Bird Species

January 3 – Bird watchers and nature lovers in Galveston have found that several of the small ecosystems where several bird species congregated prior to Hurricane Ike have been scoured away. Drivers are cautioned to watch for washed out roads particularly during the nighttime watches.

January 5 – Because of the unique environment of the Rio Grande Valley, tens of thousands bird watchers from across the nation arrive annually in South Texas to enjoy their pastime with fellow watchers, becoming one of South Texas' best economic strengths.

Hurricane Impacts

January 6 - Criminals are taking advantage of battered apartment complexes in Galveston, where thefts and break-ins have turned some residences into war zones. Police are raising efforts to patrol the area and combat the situation as much as they can.

Missing Person

January 6 – Authorities near Trinity Bay continue to search for a man whose boat capsized in an offshore storm. Unfortunately, no lifejackets were stowed on board, and rough seas have hindered the search effort.

Utility Costs

January 10 – Tarrant County has proposed to build a hydroelectric plant to drastically cut energy costs of pumping water from other parts of the state in very dry conditions, as the area has seen especially in the 2006 drought. The power plant is an attempt not only to reduce energy costs but also the enormous amount of carbon dioxide released from energy production.

January 11 – Since November and December, although chilly, have been relatively warm throughout the state, utility bill costs have been down from previous years. The NWS also predicts January to be warm, though strong cold fronts will be present to cool off temperatures drastically.

Free Toilets

January 12 – Due to the record drought in Central Texas, the Austin Water Conservation group is giving away free toilets to save both water and money. According to the group, less water means less pumping energy and thus less greenhouse gas emissions to create that energy.

Cedar Allergy

January 21 – Central Texas has noticed the cedar pollen concentration to be much higher than normal. With no significant rain to wash the pollen out of the air, thousands of allergy sufferers have taken shots to combat the high levels of cedar pollen which reached 2,000 grains per cubic meter, about 40 times the amount seen a few days ago.

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