Fort Bend County MUD 81: Mild Drought Conditions in Effect; drought response measures being implemented

11 08 2011

As the drought across the State of Texas continues, there is a growing necessity to conserve water.  Fort Bend County MUD 81 (City of Weston Lakes) has announced today that they are implementing the first stage of its drought contingency plan.  At this point, customers in the municipal utility district boundaries are asked to voluntarily reduct water use, except the following activities shall be mandatory and not voluntary:

  • All outdoor water usage, including, but not limited to, lawn and garden watering, car washing, and window washing, shall be limited as follows:  1)  Only users with even-numbered addresses may use water outdoors on even-numbered days and only users with odd numbered addresses may use water outdoors on odd-numbered days.  In the event no street address exists, only users living on the north and west side of a street may use water outdoors on even-numbered days, and only users on the and east side of a street may use water outdoors on odd-numbered days, and 2) Outdoor water use shall be prohibited between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., and between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. (midnight).

Fort Bend County Technical Rescue Team practices trench rescue techniques in City of Richmond

11 08 2011

As reported by Don Munsch and reported in the Fort Bend Herald on Wednesday, August 10, 2011, area firefighters who make up a County-wide Technical Rescue Team have been in training this week.  Top-notch instructors from Texas A&M have been leading the students with instruction on trench rescues.  Other training sessions will be taking place throughout 2011. 

The Fort Bend County Technical Rescue Team is a multi-jurisdictional effort to build an urban search and rescue capability that can be deployed in the Houston region if the need should arise.  The cost of the needed equipment and training is being paid for by federal homeland security funds which have been allocated to Fort Bend County. 

In addition to the Technical Rescue Team, homeland security funds have also funded the formation of two regional hazardous materials response teams and a regional mass casualty response team.  All these teams are based here in Fort Bend County providing excellent service the citizens of Fort Bend County and support assistance to the entire region.  Without the formation of all of these teams, response to certain types of disasters would not be as effective or as efficient. 

Related to the training being held this week, as reported by Munsch:

The victim was under some dirt at the bottom of the 8 1/2-foot trench at George Park in Richmond. Upon closer examination, the victim was missing part of his arm.

Emergency responders said the victim was breathing but not conscious. He was a worker tending to duties inside a trench, according to the public information officer at the scene.

Using various equipment, firefighters from Richmond and Rosenberg, Missouri City and Stafford rescued the victim Monday afternoon in about an hour and 20 minutes. Fire department training teams rescued the victim, a mannequin, in 100-degree temperatures.

“It’s a multi-agency task force that we have with the county and it’s part of the technical rescue training we have,” said Richmond Fire Department Lt. Chris McAnally, explaining the trench rescue training.

Firefighters train together about twice a year, he said.  Trainings sessions include structural collapse, trench rescue, confined space and rope rescue.

“We’ve got a simulated trench collapse here with a mannequin on the bottom simulating a victim,” he said.  McAnally said trench hole collapses are common with utility, electrical, underground and pipeline work.

“We had a trench collapse in Richmond in 2000 in the Office Depot parking lot,” he said. “There have been a few other ones since then, but that was a major one. It was an underground utility trench they were digging.”  Rescuers must simultaneously perform safety measures while maintaining their own safety.

“It’s a methodical process of shoring up to maintain safety to prevent further collapses,” McAnally said.

Drought in Texas, Plains May Persist Until 2012

11 08 2011

As written by Paul J. Weber and published by the Associated Press on August 8, 2012:

The drought that has turned Texas and parts of the Plains into a parched moonscape of cracked earth could persist into next year, prolonging the misery of farmers and ranchers who have endured a dry spell that is now expected to be the state’s worst since the 1950s.

 The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that the La Nina weather phenomenon blamed for the crippling lack of rain might be back soon, just two months after the last La Nina ended. If that happens, the drought would almost certainly extend into 2012.

 The extreme dry conditions have been made worse by week after week of triple-digit temperatures, which have caused reservoirs to evaporate, crops to wither and animals and fish to die off by the thousands.

 “The suffering and desperate need for relief grows with the rising temperatures and record-breaking heat that continue to scorch Texas with each passing day,” state Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples said.

Even the state’s feral hogs are hiding from the heat, postponing a new reality TV show about Texans gunning them down from helicopters.  Texas saw less than an inch of rain statewide in July, and more than 90 percent of the state is already in the two most extreme stages of drought.

“Anything below 2 to 3 inches of rainfall would be a fly-on-the-windshield type thing as far as improvement,” said Victor Murphy, a climate expert with the National Weather Service. “It wouldn’t reverse this continued death spiral we’re on.”

 Also Thursday, the state climatologist declared this the most severe one-year drought on record in Texas. Officials expected to declare soon that it has become the worst drought since the 1950s.

 In Dallas, county officials say at least 13 people have died from the heat this summer. The high temperature Thursday was expected to hit 109 degrees, which would be a record for the date.

Statewide demand for power was expected to approach the maximum Thursday for a fourth straight day. Some large industrial plants were forced off the overburdened electric grid, requiring them to shut down or rely on their own power reserves. And for the first time this summer, utilities warned residential customers of the potential for rolling outages.

Beleaguered farms and dead pastures have been hurt the most. The agriculture industry, which accounts for nearly 9 percent of the Texas economy, may be headed for the biggest single-year losses ever — potentially as high as $8 billion, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

The La Nina watch issued by the Climate Prediction Center warned that the phenomenon marked by a cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean could soon redevelop. La Nina typically results in less rain for southern states, and it’s blamed for drought conditions in Oklahoma and New Mexico, too.

A La Nina watch means conditions are favorable for La Nina to return within the next six months. But Texas will probably know as early as October or November, said Mike Halpert, a deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center.  By that time, the driest places could be out of water.

In the town of Robert Lee, a rural farming community of about 1,000 in the middle of West Texas, people are worried that Lake E.V. Spence could dry up by winter and leave the town without any water.  Some residents wonder if the National Guard can haul in water. Making matters worse, a pipe that was probably busted by the dry, shifting ground began gushing water the town cannot spare. City workers scrambled Thursday to fix it.

Closer to Austin, the Llano River trickled at a rate about 95 percent slower than normal. The city of Llano already has contacted bottled water distributors about supplying residents with bottles for cooking and drinking if the river flow stops entirely, which could happen in a matter of weeks.

“It’s amazing we’re still getting what water we are,” City Manager Finley deGraffenried said. “We’re running 107 degrees yesterday and the day before. It’s unbearable.”  Texas received no significant rain in April or May, which are typically the state’s wettest months.

Lake levels are so low that earlier this week, a massive chunk of the space shuttle Columbia that broke apart over Texas in 2003 was found poking out of the receded waters of Lake Nacogdoches.

About 70 percent of Texas rangeland and pastures are classified as being in very poor condition, which means there has been complete or near-complete crop failure or there’s no food for grazing livestock.

One of the most memorable droughts occurred in the 1950s, when a decade of below-average rainfall and long dry spells actually changed the state’s demographics, with many families fleeing parched farms for cities. Experts say the current drought is nowhere near so severe, but if it continues, the scarcity of water will be painful.

In the mid-1950s, Texas had a population of 7 million.  “We got a state with 25 million now. You can see the impact would be significantly greater if we had a drought that the 1950s had,” said Travis Miller, a member of the state’s Drought Preparedness Council and AgriLife Extension Service leader.

One upside is that second La Ninas are historically weaker than the first, Halpert said. The formation of La Nina also doesn’t guarantee there won’t be significant rain. The pattern often makes for a more active hurricane season, which could lash Texas with a soaking storm. Forecasters said Thursday they still see a busy hurricane season ahead, calling for 14 to 19 tropical storms.

 “If I was in Texas, this is not great news,” Halpert said. “But it’s not the end of the world.”