The Record Newspapers - Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Orange County “abnormally dry”


Last updated 8/14/2013 at Noon

Although no drought conditions exist yet in Orange County, they very well could be a problem in the near future.

According to Donald Jones, with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, conditions are “abnormally dry.”

From June 1 to the present, Southeast Texas is 8.75 inches below what is expected to be normal rainfall amounts of 14.9 inches. However, overall for the year, there is only a deficit of 1.5 inches.

Southeast Texas is not out of the woods yet and the lack of rainfall is expected to become more of an issue. Recent rain totals are not enough. This week there is a 30 percent chance of rain on Wednesday and 40 percent chance on Thursday. Rain chances continue to decrease over the weekend with a 20 percent or less chance of rainfall. Therefore, there may be some areas that don’t see any rain at all.

The lack of rainfall is currently due to an upper level ridge which suppresses the rain, Jones said.

National meteorologists expect the drought to continue or worsen through late summer and early fall in Texas, and ocean patterns are troublingly similar to those during the “drought of record” in the 1950s.

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released the latest drought forecast. It predicts the drought will persist or intensify in most of Texas from July through October. But there is one exception in far West Texas. During August and September the rains are expected to bring some relief to an area from Midland to El Paso, according to NOAA.

The forecasts are not out yet, but ocean conditions indicate that continued drought is a possibility into the fall months.

The way decadal circulation patterns are setting up, the Atlantic Ocean is warmer than normal, and there’s circulation on the Pacific Ocean, which has gone cooler than normal. When those two match up,those are the conditions which existed back in the 1950s. There’s a possibility drought conditions could extend for another couple of years.

Jeff Kelley, with the Orange County Emergency Management, said Orange County is not under a burn ban. The recent rain has helped.

Local officals use many factors when issuing a burn ban. One of which is the The Keetch-Byram Drought Index which ranges from 0 and no drought to 800 which is extreme drought and ibased on the soil capacity in 8 inches of water. The depth of soil required to hold eight inches of moisture varies. A prolonged drought and a high KBDI influences fire intensity largely because fuels have a lower moisture content.

The KBDI is a measure of meteorological drought and it reflects water gain or loss within the soil. It does not measure fuel moisture levels in the 1 to 10 hour fuel classes, which must be measured by other means for an accurate assessment of fuel moisture, regardless of the drought index readings.

The KBDI, created by John Keetch and George Byram in 1968 for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, was devised based on mathematical models for predicting the likelihood of wildfire based on soil moisture and other conditions related to drought.

A recent KBDI map shows Orange County with shades of yellow and orange. Yellow indicates a index of 500 to 600 and Orange is a bit worse with a 600 to 700 range.

The numbers and colors of the map vary with a low KBDI of zero to 800. The colors are blue being the lowest and red the highest level. Orange County is in the mid range. However, just north of here, in Tyler County, the map shows mostly red and a KBDI at the top of the scale of 700 to 800. Sabine and San Augustine Counties also show a lot of red on the map. In Jasper County the is a lot of red, but also Orange.

However, as many Southeast Texans know, the weather can change and some can only hope it will -but just give it a few minutes.

A map of drought conditions in Texas shows Orange County is abnormally dry. National meteorologists expect the drought to continue or worsen through late summer and early fall in Texas, and ocean patterns are troublingly similar to those during the “drought of record” in the 1950s.


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