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By Margaret Toal
For the Record 

Dry summer leads to Bridge City asking to curb water use


Last updated 8/15/2023 at 6:19pm

Brown leaves are falling off of trees and the grass is dry and brown. But now in Bridge City, residents are being asked to restrict their watering.

The National Weather Service's gauges at the Orange County Airport on Tuesday afternoon reached 105, which could set a record for heat. The county remains under an excessive heat warning by the weather service.

The service warns that "very dry conditions and accumulated heat increase the potential for heat-related illnesses and wildfires."

On Tuesday, the city of Bridge City implemented an emergency water restriction plan as the region continues to sizzle with afternoon temperatures topping 100 and no measurable rain for days and days.

Bridge City's action comes on top of a 90-day burn ban ordered last week by Orange County Commissioners Court, plus Governor Greg Abbott including Orange County in a disaster declaration for fire danger. The special declaration allows local fire agencies to use state resources to help stop and put out wildfires.

Bridge City on Tuesday sent a press release saying, "Due to the extended drought conditions we are currently experiencing, we’re asking the citizens of Bridge City to voluntarily reduce their water usage."

The city of Beaumont on Monday issued a Phase 2 for their water contingency plan and then went to Phase 3 on Tuesday. In that city, use of sprinklers connected to hoses are now banned.

Bridge City adopted a drought contingency plant in September 2016 and the move Tuesday is the first step of the plan.

"Some of the requirements of the Stage 1 Response include voluntary water use restrictions to limit the irrigation of landscaped areas to Sundays and Thursdays for customers with a street address ending in even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6, 8), and Saturdays and Wednesdays for customers with street addresses ending in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7, 9)," the release reads.

The city points out that it is better for the vegetation if the watering is done between the hours of midnight and 10 in the morning, or after 8 p.m. on designated watering days.

In addition, the city said this phase of the plan is needed "as a precautionary measure to ensure that we have adequate supplies of water for domestic use and fire protection."

The fire protection may be needed as the wildfire danger increases daily under the scorching, dry temperatures. Texas Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which keeps track of moisture in the soil as a way of determining fire hazards, has Orange County and the surrounding counties in the 700-800 red zone, with 800 being totally dry inches deep into the soil.

Though no large wildfires have been reported in Orange County as of Tuesday morning, a few grass fires have broken out and been extinguished. One was Friday afternoon near the historic Orange Train Depot and the tall, dead grass along the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way.

Last week, 160 acres of forest burned in Newton County and Louisiana parishes across the Sabine River had also had some extensive wildfires.

Orange County's burn ban means no outside burning is allowed with violators facing the possibility of a misdemeanor charge and fine. That could increase if an outdoor fire leads to a wildfire.

The Texas health department also warns that smoke from wildfires may be hazardous to the health of people with lung or breathing problems. People with health problems should wear a tight-fitting N-95 mask when outside if it is smoky.

The Orange County Office of Emergency Management is also advising people to keep their pets safe. If the pets are outdoors, they need to be provided with lots of cool water and shade. They should never be left alone in a car during the heat. Even with a window open, the temperatures can become deadly within minutes.

That advice also goes for children, especially babies. Luckily, no child car deaths have been reported in this area this summer.

At this time, the National Weather Service in Lake Charles has a forecast that continues hot and mostly dry conditions for the next week. A slight chance of rain is set for Sunday, with chances going up to 40 percent for a shower or thunderstorm on Monday. However, lately, those long range predictions of rain have fizzled out before the day arrives.

The height of hurricane season has also arrived, but at this time, the National Hurricane Center has no systems in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico, under watch.


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