North Texas drought and fires

There have been many many fires in the North Texas area because of the very dry, windy conditions. Quite a few homes have been destroyed.

Perhaps a more interesting situation is in the small town of Cross Plains, near Abilene in Callahan County. Over the late afternoon hours, fire spread into town, destroying (at last check around 6:30pm) 12 to 15 homes, the Cross Plains United Methodist Church, the "Highway 36 Motel", and the fire was continuing.

Many firefighters and much equipment had come to Cross Plains, but water was becoming scarce. There was also a possible natural gas leak they were investigating this evening.

There had been no reported injuries, but all residents of the city had reportedly been evacuated (pop. 1000). Hopefully they'll get it under control.

ADD: An Abilene TV station says 20-30 homes were destroyed as of about 6pm local time, and one death reported.

As far as the drought in north and east Texas, the climo numbers for Tyler are staggering. Tyler has had just under 25 inches of rainfall this year, and that's nearly 20 inches less than normal. Longview, farther east is a foot-and-a-half down for the year. Dallas is more than a foot down as well.
 
I just learned a few minutes ago from Brittany (aka "Buggi") from weather chat, that her parents lost their home in that town, and the church mentioned was the church where her father was the pastor.

My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by these fires.
 
This map shows, for each station, how its 2005 precip matches up with normal precip at a nearby station. So in other words, if the drought kept up at this level, Tyler might start developing the flora and fauna of Abilene (in some level of hypothetical, scientific fantasy). Basically 2005 has seen most of Texas getting as much (little) rain as west Texas in a normal year.

drought.jpg
 
The WFO in Fort Worth has already issued fire weather watches for Sunday as strong southerly winds of 20 to 30 mph combine with very low humidity values once again.

Here in Southeast Texas burn bans are in effect for many counties including the Houston area, although here in Houston we were helped out a couple of weeks ago when 5.64 inches of rain fell in one day. That cut the cities rainfall deficit in half, although with the progressive pattern in place it looks like things will get worse before they get any better.

The seasonal drought outlook issued by CPC through March of 06 shows that things could improve slightly for parts of central and eastern Texas while most of north Texas will continue to see drought conditions remain or intesify, which is not a good news.

US Drought Outlook

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expe...son_drought.gif
 
I expect Sunday will be the worst of the fire days so far for North Texas and Oklahoma, between strong southwest winds, even lower humidities, higher temps, and the added bonus of fireworks. Yeah, they're discouraging the ignition of flaming missiles into acres of dry vegetation (as Neal would say, YA THINK??), but the mildness of the warning is amazing to me. Are the governors beholden to the fireworks lobby?

Anyway, should be quite a show underway by 5:00 PM. Hope nobody gets killed.
 
The OK Governor (Henry) amended the burn ban today to outlaw the use of fireworks while the ban is in effect. The only exclusion to this is for 'official'/public/organized displays (like city displays), which I assume must be licensed or something. For the average citizen, however, it is now illegal to light fireworks until the burn ban is lifted. In this amendment, I believe, are also revisions to prohibit any outdoor fires, unlike previously when campfires were legal as long as the fires were surrounded by rocks or bricks.

The governor also increased the fine for violation of the burn ban to $500 and max jail/prison sentence of 1 year.
 
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