The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

June 21, 2013

Summer's here! First day of season brings heat drought

PALESTINE — Friday already seems like the longest day of the week, but that’s especially true today since today is actually the longest day of the year.

June 21 is the summer solstice, the first official day of summer – the result of the planet’s north-south axis tilt. Today the North Pole tips more toward the sun than on any other day of the year, resulting in a day with the most sunlit hours.

And if you’re from East Texas, the first day of summer usually means it’s only getting hotter and drier from here.

“We’ve been blessed with some rainfall already this year, but we are still considered under a drought,” Palestine City Emergency Management Coordinator Schelby Wells said. “We’re not experiencing any situation where we’d need go on rotation (to ration water usage) and if we and our citizens continue to be proactive and conservative, that’ll do much to alleviate the possibility of having to do so.”

Wells reminds city residents that burning within the city limits is a class C misdemeanor and punishable by a fine. She also recommends citizens think about trimming any vegetation that might become a problem during possible summer thunderstorms.

“Residents who take proactive measures and trim branches that could fall and take out power lines can really help prevent other problems from occurring when a strong storm passes through,” Wells said.

The city of Palestine offers its residents curbside brush collection on the second day of their scheduled trash collection. Limbs must be bundled in 3-foot lengths and leaf bags count toward the 20 bag limit. Call the city’s Trash Collection Department, 903-731-8455, with questions.

State officials put Anderson County’s Keetch-Byrum Drought Index rating between 500 and 600 this week, and despite recent area rainfall meteorologists aren’t looking for any immediate relief. Eight hundred is the maximum drought that is possible.

The index, found at the Texas Forest Service’s website, www.tfs.gov, explains at that level, “wildfire intensity begins to increase significantly. Wildfires will readily burn and larger fuels could burn or smolder for several days. This is often seen in late summer and early fall.”

According to the Texas Water Development Board’s Texas Drought Report for the 83rd Legislature, dated the week of June 17, 2013, there have been “minor improvements in drought conditions across the state with the slightest of upticks in statewide reservoir storage.

“Nevertheless,” the report continues, “60 percent of the state remains in severe or worse drought conditions.”

The report included current drought statistics for the state – 95 percent of the state is currently experiencing drought conditions, compared to 98 percent reported this time last year. Only 88 percent of Texas reported drought conditions three months ago.

State wide reservoir data indicated most of the state’s water reservoirs and lakes are holding at 67 percent full, down from last year’s reports of 76 percent full. Normally, officials said, it should be about 87 percent at this time of year.

The KBDI measures and tracks the level of precipitation needed to bring the top eight inches of soil back to saturation. A value of zero represents complete soil saturation or no moisture deficiency. A value of 800 means it would take eight inches of precipitation to fully saturate the soil. At any point along the scale, the KBDI number indicates the amount of precipitation it would take to bring the moisture level back to zero.

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