Monday, September 5, 2011

Cooler Weather Comes at a Cost as Fires Burn Across Texas...

A much needed break in the heat has finally arrived, as promised, to the Lone Star state. Temperatures this morning were in the 50s and 60s across the Northwest half of the state, and in the lower 70s across all but far South Texas (see map above).  

While the decrease in temperature and humidity certainly make it feel much more bearable outside, it has also come at a high cost.  Gusty North winds and very dry conditions combined to produce widespread and significant fires across a large portion of the state yesterday afternoon and evening.

The image below shows the Texas Forest Service's "Active Fire" page as of 9am CDT this morning:

"New" fires are noted in red (you can only see one of those up near Texarkana).  The majority (shown in orange) are fires that are still burning from yesterday.

Some of the fires, which were driven by one more 100 degree day and strong, gusty North winds, encroached into portions of several Austin neighborhoods (like Steiner Ranch, shown in the photos above) yesterday evening.  You can see more details (including live updates throughout the day) on the central Texas fires by going to this article.  

A particularly large fire to the East of Austin, which started near the Bastrop State Park yesterday afternoon, has burned 20,000 acres, destroyed 300+ homes and is still described as "0% contained" as of this writing.  Mandatory evacuations are in effect for this fire which includes several residential subdivisions.

Unfortunately, gusty Northerly winds will continue today, along with very low relative humidity and dry ground conditions which could lead to new fires or the rekindling of old ones.  A "critical" fire weather outlook is forecast today within the red shaded area on the image below.  This includes the I-35 corridor from Austin/San Antonio up through the DFW Metroplex region:

There are a couple of things working on our side today, in that the winds, while gusty, won't be as strong as they were yesterday, and temperatures won't leave the 80s in most of the critical outlook area.  (Higher temperatures provide more fuel for wildfires).  None-the-less, any fire that gets started in this region is likely to quickly grow out of control due to the low humidity, dry ground and gusty winds.

If you live (or have family, friends, etc.) in Texas and would like to keep up with fire information today, go to the Texas Forest Service website where you can keep an eye on the wildfire map that I showed a few images above.  The map is interactive, and allows you to zoom in to a particular area and "click" on a fire icon for additional details on the location, acreage, and containment.

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