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Drought/Burn Bans/Fire Hazards

County-wide burn bans through August 1

Monthly Change in Drought Monitor Classification

U.S. Drought Monitor, July 7, 2009
U.S. Drought Monitor, July 28, 2009

Early July – Some burn bans around Texas have been lifted, including those in Midland and Andrews Counties, and Orange County.

In July- As the month progressed, several burn bans were enacted throughout the state, including Ector County (which was later lifted), Cherokee County, Angelina County, Palo Pinto County, Jasper County Anderson County, and Cameron County.

July 1 – The drought coupled with the effects of Hurricane Ike is expected to kill more than 60,000 trees in Harris and surrounding counties. These tax-payer financed trees cannot be watered because it is not economically feasible.

Some areas of Texas have not seen a significant rainfall since 2006, and croplands are almost completely drying up. Even irrigated crops are taking a hit, since there is not enough water to properly irrigate every farmer's field. Corn has taken a tremendous hit; many farmers have simply baled browned corn stalks as feed for cattle, especially in the South Texas.

July 4 – The drought has dried up water and pollen sources for bee colonies. Therefore, honey bottlers have seen a decrease in production of 75% this year.

A three-county wildfire burned in Montgomery, Harris, and Liberty Counties that was stopped within a few hundred yards of about 80 homes. Collin County firefighters were called to more than 40 grass fires throughout the Fourth of July Weekend.

July 7 – The high pressure center near the coast has caused much of Texas to remain thunderstorm free during the past month. Generally, lightning increases as a function of temperature, but the drought has brought much less lightning to many parts of Texas.

July 8 – Though historic drought has occurred this year, climate experts using long term models predict a record breaking long term drought starting in 2060 and lasting some 20 years. Climate models almost unanimously predict some degree of warming during the next century. Most experts also predict a wetter East Texas and drier West Texas. However, experts predict that the current drought will recede somewhat by September or possibly later. Energy use set an all time hourly average high in Texas, as customers consumed 62,786 megawatts of energy cooling their homes and businesses.

July 12 – Canyon Lake has is experiencing the worst drought conditions seen since its completion in 1964. It is approximately 13.5 feet below normal, revealing old shell, lost fishing tackle, and even barbed wire from before it was constructed. In Orange County, Beaver Pond at the Botanical Gardens has completely dried up for the first time since it was put in.

July 16- At least 12 wildfires have been sparked in Jack County alone due to low humidity, exceptionally dry vegetation, and persistent winds. Firefighters across the state have battled many wildfires in triple digit heat. Nearly 60 wildfires were reported in Bell County during the Fourth of July Weekend by illegally-shot fireworks. In Parker County, 11 horses have died from dehydration after a water well quit. Governor Rick Perry has issued a state of disaster declaration for 165 counties whose fire danger is exceptional. State officials urge all Texas citizens to use extreme caution with any type of fire.

July 17 – Climate experts suggest that the current ongoing drought may be similar to the droughts of the 30s and 50s which lasted a decade or so. But, most believe that a hot, drought-laden Texas will become the norm in the years to come.

July 21 – A 200-acre fire roared in Pecos County caused by lightning in the area. Firefighters had difficulty finding suitable spots to extinguish the blaze, since the terrain was not suited for vehicles.

July 22 – Austin residents are asked to save as much water as they can. Though mandatory procedures are not yet in place, officials recommend taking maximum efficiency measures with lawn watering, clothes washing, etc. The drought severity concerns many officials.

The Guadalupe River has dropped to 10% of its normal level and is completely dry in selected areas. Therefore, Kerrville has seen a more than 80% reduction in water diversion from the Guadalupe River.

July 23 – Vehicles at the bottom of Lake Travis near Austin have started to emerge due to extremely low lake levels. Police officials recognize some stolen cars from reports of more than 20 years ago.

July 26 – Police in San Antonio are actively seeking any residents who might be watering their lawns not according to mandates. Liberty Hill has made a sobering statement: "If we follow these strict guidelines, we may have drinking water." The Edwards Aquifer has experienced its driest 23-month period since 1885.

July 29 – A plume of heavy smoke cast a dark shadow over a stretch of state Highway 19 Wednesday afternoon as yet another forest fire raged through drought-ravaged Walker County. The speed and power of the blaze caused the fire to overtake two abandoned homes, a barn, and a mobile home before fire crews could save them.

July 31 – Lack of rainfall and record triple-digit temperatures have scorched crops and rangeland throughout parts of Texas causing drought losses to reach $3.6 billion, Texas AgriLife Extension Service economists reported last week.

By the end of the year, losses could exceed $4.1 billion, the loss estimated in Texas in 2006, if sufficient rainfall isn't received to revive crops and forage, economists said.

Agricultural Impacts


July 1 – The Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas has stalled for its 3rd consecutive day. Engineers blame the dry weather for a misalignment in the ride's structure.

July 4 – Some oak trees around San Antonio that are stressed by the drought have been susceptible to a fungus called hypoxylon canker. Diseased trees should be removed, but drought-stressed trees can make a comeback if watered properly with a drip-line.

July 12 – Deer hunters of 2008-2009 experienced a below-average harvesting season, when total dear entries fell by nearly a quarter of last seasons totals. Deer management officials say that this is still impressive, considering that the drought lowered protective foliage and limited water supply to the deer.

July 13 – Low Guadalupe River levels have increased tube-rental business of the Comal River. With a wetter fall expected due to El Nino, Texas lake recreation activities, which have taken a major hit, are expected to rise.

July 16 – Lake Corpus Christ is at dangerously low levels for visitors. Lake management officials urge extreme caution when on a jet ski or boat to look for any surfacing obstruction. Lake Travis has only one available boat ramp open, but if the lake continues to drop, it will soon no longer be accessible. The lake is dropping at a rate of about 1 foot per week. Small craft should not have a problem but larger boats will run into trouble.

July 17 – At least 72 children have drowned so far this year in Texas pools, only 10 shy of last year's 82 deaths. Parents or guardians should keep an active watch on their children as they play in the pool.

July 23 – At Franklin Mountain State Park, 13 visitors have become dehydrated after being stranded in the park. Fortunately, they were able to use cell phones to call for help, though park officials warn that cell phone reception can be poor and not trustworthy.

July 27 – Bird feeders have become a life saver not only to hummingbirds but many species of birds looking for some food and water during the drought. Those who enjoy bird-watching should keep feeders filled and should expect some unusual visitors.


July 1 – Growth has slowed on some Texas crops from almost no rain in southern portions of the state. Hay cuttings were limited on non-irrigated land and any second cutting has produced little hay.

Farmers in the Lower Panhandle region have hit hard times from drought, hail, and flash flooding, filing as many as 4,000 insurance claims for lost cotton in this area alone.

July 6 – Easily eroded land in North Texas, previously unplanted under the Texas Conservation Reserve Program intended to prevent another Dust Bowl, has been taken off the program and forced fearing farmers to plant wheat or other crops to try to make ends meet on land they can't afford. Experts say that if wind and drought conditions continue, it would not be unreasonable to see a small Dust Bowl assuming farmers begin to plant.

July 10 – Brazoria County farmers expect to break even or be slightly in the red after the harvest is completed. Only 25% of the normal rainfall having fallen and weeks of 100°F temperatures have left farmers high and dry.

July 16 – Peach growers in Texas lost 75% of their usual crop to late freezes, flash flooding, extreme heat, and drought. Blueberry farmers have also taken a hit, while farmers everywhere in Texas have had one of the toughest farming years in decades.

July 19 – Farmers will receive up to 60% reimbursement of their crop losses from federal monies allocated to protect against crop disasters, though farmers will not receive this aid until late Fall. Total crop losses this year are estimated at $2.6 billion, while cattle losses have totaled $974 million.

July 22 – The region from San Antonio to Temple has received less than 15% of their normal precipitation for the year and has cause total devastation to some cropland. Ranchers are having to cull old cattle and sell calves they normally wouldn't sell.


July 2 – Some cattle management experts are worried that the drought may effect the concentration of nitrate and prussic acid in certain hays, grasses, and sorghum family plants, which can be very toxic if grazed in large enough quantities. Farmers should test their hay or grasses used in grazing to determine if it is safe for their cattle.

July 13 – Cattle ranchers have hit supplemental feed stores this year in the Victoria County area, since fields have practically no grasses. Victoria has been under exceptional drought for months.

July 28 – The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) is joining the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to make a new disaster assistance program available to ranchers.

July 29 – Since March of this year, Texas ranchers have lost a total of $400 million statewide because of the extended drought coupled with a dismal economy.

Other Climate Impacts

Severe Storms/Inclement Weather

July 6 – Two house fires were caused by lightning strikes in Jonesboro in Central Texas. The residents of the homes were not in the house as the lightning struck. Similarly, a house fire caused by lightning was reported in San Antonio, though unfortunately only 0.022 inches of rain fell in the region.

A 9 year old in Kaufman County called 911 after his mother had been struck by lightning inside of his home, as the charge flowed through wires and into a pan the mother was holding. The mother is recovering after her near death experience.

July 7 – A strong storm in Victoria knocked out power in the northwest section of the city as winds gusted to nearly 70 mph.

July 8 – Van Horn residents have lost power to their homes for at least 12 hours during 3 separate events. The extreme heat has some locals worried about heat exhaustion, especially for weak or elderly citizens.

July 10 – Airplane officials are confused to why a small plane from Collin County entered inclement weather that it should have skirted. Five are assumed dead from the crash near Tampa, Florida.

July 15 – Recent rainfall in El Paso has caused a sinkhole to form on I-10, when rainfall seeped into cracks in the road. Road crews have repaired the hole, though officials are looking for other potential hazards.

July 16 – Nearly 10,000 homes and businesses lost power during the severe weather events in Abilene. As many as 4,000 East Texas residents lost power during severe weather around the same time.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has purchased a bus that will move stranded passengers from grounded planes stuck in inclement weather.

July 17 – The Continental Airlines flight that scooted off the runway late last year was most likely caused by a strong crosswind that pushed the tail of the aircraft and caused the non-fatal crash.

July 19 – A home in West Odessa was demolished as severe weather moved through the area. They were placed in a hotel by a local business.

Lightning in Friendswood near Galveston caused 3 separate fires less than 3 minutes apart. A funnel cloud was unofficially sighted and damage included a tree toppling on a house. Another house fire in Cibolo in Southwest Texas caused by lightning completely destroyed the residence. Finally, a Houston Health and Human Services warehouse filled with general house supplies was set on fire by a lightning strike. The flames were so hot that firefighters couldn't get inside the building to extinguish the flames.

July 28 – A Sunday night storm caused widespread damage in Madisonville and across Madison County as strong winds blew down barns, tore away roofs and ripped down signs along the Interstate 45 corridor and surrounding areas. County judge and emergency management director Arthur Henson declared a state of disaster for Madison County, implementing the county's Emergency Management Plan.

A storm ripped through the North Texas area Sunday evening, sparking fires in Arlington, Hurst, Fort Worth and North Richland Hills, but no major injuries were reported. At the Shadow Creek Apartments in North Richland Hills, the storm hit around 7 p.m. and lightening caused a fire in an upstairs unit, fire officials said.

July 29 – A round of late-night storms closed at least one major road and knocked out power to thousands of residents in Odessa after high winds snapped a power pole.. Oncor reported that 7,000 people are still without power in Midland, Odessa, Andrews and Monahans.

July 30 – In Childress winds in excess of 100 miles per hour caused structure damage to a couple of motels and a restaurant on the northwest side of town.

The storm exposed much of the Childress Inn after tearing off a roof, collapsing a wall and trapping some motel guests. Three people were taken to Childress General Hospital late Wednesday night for bumps, bruises and deep cuts.

Extreme Heat

July 4 – Only 19 of 112 prisons located in Texas have air conditioning, though heat indices of more than 100°F can and do occur inside prisons. Most cannot fall asleep until 3 a.m., after the place has cooled sufficiently. Inmates are monitored more closely after the heat index reaches 90°F and frequent breaks and plenty of water help the inmates remain safe. State detention officials allow the prisoners to have fans, but say that the heat is part and parcel of the justice for crimes.

July 6 – Scout camp leaders are working hard to keep campers cool during triple digit weather. A medic is on hand for any camper experiencing heat exhaustion, while less strenuous activities are being implemented.

July 10 – The Salvation Army in South Texas will continue to donate air-conditioning units to residents most in need, as well as donate several electric fans to beat the heat.

At least 29 illegal immigrants have died in Webb County while attempting to cross the border. The number is soon to reach last years total of 42 heat-related deaths. Brooks County police officers report at least 33 deaths this year, already surpassing last years total.

July 13 – Record drought and extreme heat have caused several house foundations to crumble. The dry ground has caused concrete slabs to shift in the ground and create cracks in homes.

July 27 – Pet owners need to be reminded that their pets should be given proper care in the extreme heat, which means adequate shade and water in the yard and never leaving them in a hot car.

July 29 – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now investigating the first heat-related death in Travis County for 2009, as reported by EMS paramedics.

Hurricane Impacts

July 1 – More than $60 million will be allocated to the Texas Gulf Coast regions to provide assistance to recovery projects implemented after Hurricane Ike.

July 2 – Hurricane Dolly has caused citrus crop yields in South Texas, especially Cameron County, to be 20% lower than expected values. However, fruit tend to grow larger on the tree if there are less individual fruits on the tree to compete for growth.

July 6 – Local Beaumont hospitals have seen a small baby boom as children conceived around the time of Hurricane Ike are being born. There are almost 15% more children born this year than in 2008.

July 14 – A barrier along the Gulf Coast of Texas has been proposed as an effort to prevent future damages like that of Hurricane Ike. The proposal would cost $4 billion and would provide retractable flood gates similar to those in the Netherlands.

July 23 – Though the tropics have been unusually quiet, the most active part of the hurricane season is in mid August through September. Officials warn that it takes only one hurricane to create a catastrophic situation.

July 26 – A family dog has been returned after escaping from a kennel during Hurricane Ike.

July 27- Beginning September 1, a new law will give emergency management officials the authority to use "reasonable force" to force people out of dangerous areas, including those in the path of a powerful hurricane.

Air Quality

July 14 – Austin air quality has been acceptable so far during the year, though air quality officials remind residents that the months for poorest air quality are yet to come.

July 16 – Austin has been named among the top 10 greenest cities in the U.S. by an independent environmental news and information agency called Mother Nature Network, which uses several factors such as air quality, recycling efficiency, and renewable energy usage in its decision.

El Nino

July 10 – The Climate Prediction Center has forecast that El Nino conditions will bring cooler temperatures and above average precipitation to Texas starting in early Fall.


Throughout July – Oppressive heat has caused some snakes to seek shelter under any available shade. Thus, Fort Worth emergency officials have assisted 9 snake bite victims so far in 2009, whereas in 2008 only 13 snakebite victims were treated during the entire year.

A Houston hospital has seen about 2 cases per week since the middle of May; similarly, an Austin hospital has treated 29 victims so far this year, 3 more than all 2008 cases. The drought has forced the snakes to look for food elsewhere and move into different habitats to survive the heat.

July 4 – Hurricane Ike has left many marsh like areas that are perfect habitats for mosquitoes. With chemical funds running low, Southeast Texas officials are worried that mosquito populations could be unusually high.

Researchers from A&M have detected a zone of oxygen-depleted water about 9 miles off Galveston Island. Any type of marine life that remains within this areas faces certain death with bottom water oxygen levels extremely low due to overabundant algae decay.

July 8 – Residents of East Texas have seen an increase in household pests during the drought, as the creeping critters try to find a cool place to dwell. Extermination experts say suggest that residents schedule a treatment to protect their home from any potential damage.

July 13 – Unusually warm conditions from last year have caused Purple Martins eggs not to hatch. Thus adult populations are seeking other places to nest and will not return in large numbers to the Austin area.

July 15 – Cinch bugs have caused some lawn damage to many Texas residents as the heat and dry weather continue. They thrive with very little water and can cause much annoyance to home gardens and St. Augustine grasses.

July 17 – Deer populations are being stressed by the drought all over the state. Experts predict as many as 4 out of every 5 fawns born will perish. Deer have experienced poor nutrition throughout the year and hunters should expect another below average season.

July 20 – Bobcats have been blamed for the disappearance of several pets in a Dallas suburb. The drought has pushed these and other wild animals to look elsewhere for food and water. Officials suggest that pets sleep in an enclosed, well-ventilated area.

July 24 – West Texas should experience an increase in grasshoppers, mosquitoes, and other pests as plentiful rainfall in the past few weeks have greened vegetation in the area.

July 28 – Hurricane Ike, more than 10 months ago, has taken a bite out of alligator populations in the coastal marshes along the upper Texas Gulf Coast.

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