Hints for Surviving Extreme Heat

26 07 2013

We are facing typical Texas heat this summer. Here are some hints, from FEMA, on how to better cope with the high temperatures we are facing in Fort Bend County and the greater Houston region.  Temperatures are rising across the country and many cities are feeling the heat of 100 degrees or more. With the addition of humidity, some areas will begin to experience extreme heat. During extreme heat, it is important to stay cool.

Extreme heat causes more deaths than hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined. Heat related illnesses occur when the body is not able to compensate and properly cool itself.

The great news is extreme heat is preventable by following a few tips:
• Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperatures.
• Weather strip doors and windows to keep cool air in.
• Cover windows that receive morning or afternoon sunshine with drapes, shades or awnings.
• Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
• Stay indoors. If you do not have air conditioning, visit a cooling station such as your local library or shopping mall.
• Wear light weight and light colored clothing with sunscreen to reduce exposure to the sun.
• Do not leave children or pets in the car unattended at any time.
• Pace yourself in your outside activities. Reschedule if needed.

For more information on beating the heat visit: http://www.ready.gov/heat

2011 – Year of Record Heat and Record Drought

2 01 2012

The National Weather Service indicated today that 2011 was the hottest year on record for the City of Houston;  tying with the year 1962.  The average temperature for the City of Houston, at Bush Intercontinental Airport, was 71.9 degrees in both years.  Though we did not have much threat from tropical storm systems, those in the Houston region put up with weather conditions that were very hot, very dry, and caused the potential for dangerous wildfires.  Celebrators on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve were restricted in the types of fireworks that could be used in an effort to reduce wildfires in the urban area. 

The National Weather Service indicates that the City of Houston recorded 24.57 inches of rain in 2011, making 2011 the third driest year on record.  Further, the National Weather Service indicated that the rainfall totals this year rival the normal rainfall values for some cities in west Texas; places such as Abilene and San Angelo.

More Rain Could Wreak Havoc on Fort Bend County Roads

11 10 2011

Well, the good news is that we finally got a good soaking rain over the weekend in Fort Bend County. Around two inches fell across the County, and reportedly over five inches fell out in the Needville area.  This is was first significant rain in our area since January of this year.  The KBDI level dropped significantly— to a level under 600.  Definitely a needed respite from the 100 degree temperatures that the drought conditions that we have experienced for the last six or seven months.

On the other hand, it seems that the rain that we all wished for is causing some serious problems for our roadways.  Over the last couple of days, Sally MacDonald, myFOXHouston, has reported on the effect the recent rain has had on our County’s rural roads.  She reported on October 10th and 11th:

After our weekend rain, there are new concerns about area roads damaged by months of drought, but the full impact won’t be known for years. How bad the ground shifts all depends on what the weather does in coming months. 

It’s a smooth ride now, but right around the corner rural, asphalt roads in Fort Bend County are splitting wide open.   The cracks are happening faster than Marc Grant’s crews can make it out to repair them. 

“I’d say a minimum of 30% of our roads are in disarray right now,” said Grant, Fort Bend County Road Commissioner. 

Grant says drivers aren’t in danger. 

Homeowner Terence Romney acknowledges, though, that some of the larger cracks have almost swallowed his Boxer, Bruce. 

“Sometimes his foot goes in, and if his foot goes in the next time he’s walking he’s going to be jumping,” said Romney. 

Blame the unrelenting sun for cutting the life span of one of the roads in Bridlewood Estates in half. It’ll take a lot more rain than what we got on Sunday before experts can truly grasp the scope of the problem. 

“If we get small rains, short rains these cracks may firm back up. If we get large, inches upon inches and days and days of rain it could really be bad for us,” said Grant.

That’s because too much moisture inside the cracks will wreak even more havoc on the shifting ground. 

“Eventually this roadway will start pushing laterally into the ditch,” said Grant. 

In the past road crews have tried to repair the cracks. 

“This is the filling they did last time, and look what happened it’s right back to where it was and even got wider,” said Romney. 

This time Grant says crews will wait to fix less traveled rural roads until a full weather pattern has run its course.   Busy roads are getting immediate attention. Grant says he won’t know the financial impact until we get more rain.

Fort Bend County: A snapshot of information – August 20, 2011

20 08 2011

TROPICS:     No Immediate Threat to Fort Bend County.  Monitoring Tropical Disturbance 31.

EXTREME HEAT:     Heat Index will reach 106 degrees today.  Heat Advisory in effect for Fort Bend County until 9:00 pm tonight.  Good chance that heat advisory will be extended.  Upper-level high pressure will remain parking over south-central portions of the nation over the next few days; this means that extreme heat conditions, as well as extreme drought conditions will persist over Fort Bend County into the early part of next week.

DROUGHT:     The KBDI Drought Index Level is at 756.  This is an extreme level indicating severe drought and increased wildfire occurrence.  Nine counties in our immediate vicinity are all above the 750 Level.  Drought conditions are forecast to continue into next week and beyond.  Little or no rain is projected for the coming week.

WATER SYSTEMS:     Per information from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, roughly 19% of the County’s population live in areas with voluntary restrictions on the use of water.  Roughly 10% of the County’s population live in areas which have implemented Stage 1 water use restrictions.

City of Houston issues mandatory water restrictions

19 08 2011

A couple of days ago, the City of  Houston implemented stricter water conservation measures.  And, yes, that affects citizens in Fort Bend County— about 38,000 individuals of the City of Houston live in Fort Bend County.  The City of Houston, along with First Colony MUD No. 9 are now at “Stage 2” of their drought plans.  More about the actions of the City of Houston can be found in the report from KHOU.com staff, published on August 16, 2011.  The article:

Mayor Annise Parker on Monday implemented the City of Houston’s “Stage Two” water conservation plan, making the previous voluntary water restrictions mandatory for all residents.

Under the Stage Two plan, Houston residents are required to repair all detectable leaks within 72 hours of discovery and limit outdoor watering to two days a week.

Residents at even-numbered street addresses can water their lawns on Sundays and Thursdays, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. Residents with odd-numbered addresses can water on Saturdays and Wednesdays, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Failure to comply with the restrictions could result in hundreds of dollars in fines.

Parker said it wasn’t her intention to hand out a slew of violations, but residents are asked to take the restrictions seriously.

“While these restrictions are mandatory, we will begin with warnings and an informational campaign because the goal is voluntary compliance,” said Parker. “For those who insist on not being good neighbors, citations will follow.”

The City of Houston will also begin internal water-conservation measures, including the suspension of any scheduled window or power-washings, an audit of all irrigation systems for leaks, and the suspension of washing city vehicles or equipment except for health, safety or critical maintenance reasons.

The city has three main water reservoirs: Lake Livingston, Lake Houston and Lake Conroe.

Officials said because of the persistent drought conditions, they plan to start drawing water from Lake Conroe to stabilize the declining water level at Lake Houston.

It will be the first time the city has drawn water from Lake Conroe since 1988 — and only the third time in its history.

So far this summer, Lake Conroe has been losing about half a foot of water every month. Once the city starts drawing water, that will increase to more than a foot and a half a month.

In a news conference last week, Parker reminded concerned Lake Conroe property owners that the lake was built thanks to Houston taxpayers in the early 1960s.

“It is what it is,” Parker said. “There may be recreational impacts. We have to provide the necessary water to our population.”

After “Stage Two,” there are two, more serious levels of water rationing.

In the meantime, residents are also encouraged to take other water-conservation measures when possible, such as installing low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and toilets, refraining from washing cars or filling swimming pools, limiting showers to five minutes, washing only full loads of dishes or clothes and turning off the water while brushing their teeth.

Drought plays havoc with Fort Bend Roads

18 08 2011

The extreme heat and the lack of rain is beginning to take its toll on area roadways.  B.J. Pollock, correspondent with the Houston Chronicle, wrote an article that was published yesterday detailing the problems caused by the drought conditions; and as you will not in reading her article below, the problems will probably get worse before they get better.  As reported by Ms. Pollock:

The extended drought conditions in Texas have caused problems with some rural roads in Fort Bend County as the shifting dry ground splits open the pavement.

In addition, the drought has led to an extension of a county burn ban that has been in effect since April.

“Dry weather is the worst for roads; it takes a toll,” said County Road Commissioner Marc Grant. “The bad part is, when we do start getting rain, it’ll go down in the cracks to the subgrade and mess it up.”

Grant said the subgrade lies beneath the lime that is under the top layer of pavement, and that many long cracks are several feet deep.

Deterioration caused by moisture starts at the subgrade level and progresses to the surface. While reinforcement bars keep concrete roads from fracturing a little less than asphalt roads, it’s all susceptible to the drought.

“There’s just about no way to keep the roads from cracking anymore,” Grant said. “We’re going out every day, sealing cracks. You can’t seal all the cracks, but you try to seal as many as you possibly can.”

Crews are concentrating on the more well-traveled roads, and Grant said they’ve been repairing fissures for months. Of course, that takes money.

“The longer the drought, the more the monetary impact,” he said. “It’s financially a huge burden, and we won’t know the financial impact until after the rains come through.”

In some places, the sides of the roads appear to falling off. In those cases, said Grant, “When it rains, it’ll fall even more. Then we’ll come back and build it back up.”

He said the root systems of grass that’s popping up in many of the cracks actually helps hold the roads together.

“We’re always looking for new ways to seal cracks; ways that will help the integrity of our roadways,” he said. “I tell everybody, ‘If you can find a way to seal crack in this region, you’re going to make lots of money.'”

County commissioners enacted a burn ban April 26 and extended it at their July 12 meeting.

County Fire Marshal Vance Cooper said burn bans are only good for 90 days and then must be voted on again. He also said it would take about 10 inches of rain across the county to lift the ban.

Cooper said the Keetch-Byrum Drought Index, which is a scale for estimating the dryness of soil, shows Fort Bend County to be at 705, with any number higher than 500 indicating need for a burn ban. The scale runs from zero to 800. The higher the number, the more dry it is.

“In talking with the Forest Service, if we got an inch of rain, we’d be good for about 24 hours and then we’d basically be back to where we are now,” he said. “This drought did not happen overnight. It took several years to get where we are and it’ll take several years to get out.


Drought Conditions Worsen in Fort Bend County

9 08 2011

There has been little or no rain in Fort Bend County in recent weeks.  The little bit of showers that occurred about a week ago are now a distant memory.  The KBDI level is now well over 700 indicating that we are experiencing “absolutely dry conditions.”  And so is the rest of our region and the rest of the State of Texas.  As of today, 10 of the 13 counties that make up the Houston-Galveston Area Council have KBDI levels over 700; and two other counties are fast approaching that level.

The dry conditions are only exacerbated by the daily Heat Advisories in the County.  Afternoon temperatures will likely exceed  triple digits again for what seems like about two weeks in a row; and the upper level high pressure will continue bring well above normal temperatures and heat index values between 105 degrees and 110 degrees.  So far this week, the electrical grid seems to be handling the load, but when temperatures are this high, a strain is put on electrical demands across the area. 

Last week, rolling blackouts were barely avoided when electrical usage soared to new record heights across the State of Texas.  Temperatures are remaining very warm at night so nobody gets much relief from the heat when outside.

Cattle at Mason Briscoe's Ranch in Rosenberg

There have been some heat related deaths in the State, but fortunately not in Fort Bend County yet.  Problems persist for those in the agricultural and farming trades.  As reported by Jeff Osborne in the Fort Bend Herald on July 30th, the heat and lack of rain is devastating the ranching industry.  He writes:

Rain Hardly Helps Drought

Dave Scott of Richmond, former president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said this year’s drought has caused nothing less than a disaster to plague area farmers and ranchers.

Echoing the comments of many others in the agriculture industry, Scott said this year’s drought is the worst he’s ever seen.

“When you have people like Hilmar Moore selling cattle that says it all,” Scott said.

And the bad news just keeps coming.

“The farmers are probably hit even worse than the cattle people,” he said. “If it stays this way, a lot of people are going to struggle and suffer.”

Scott said there’s very little hay on the market in Texas. And what little hay is available is very expensive.

“Hay that sold for $40 a roll last year costs $70 to $75 right now,” he said.

“They’re shipping some hay out of Arkansas (to Texas ranchers), but the problem with those big round bales is that you have to invest so much money in freight costs. It’s very, very expensive.”

Scott said he can’t think of anyone raising cattle who hasn’t had to sell at least some of their herd.

“We’ve had to cull 2 to 2 1/2 times more than we usually sell at auction,” he said.

“In North and Central Texas, they’re telling people not to bring their cattle to sell. They already have more than they can handle. Fortunately, we haven’t gotten quite that bad around here yet.”

Scott said recent rains might help some farmers and ranchers, “but we’re almost down to the bare dirt. The grass is gone. So people are having to lighten up on (the number of cattle they have).”

Mason Briscoe, who owns Fort Bend County Feed & Farm Supply in Rosenberg, also raises cattle.

“This drought has hurt us in a whole lot of different ways,” he said. “One of the main things is I had to sell calves 2 or 3 months early this summer. “There’s just very little grass.

“The price of cotton seed hulls has gone up a lot, and they don’t even have any available until they can harvest and process the cotton. All the feed has gone sky high, too. It’s rough.”

He said the cost of range cubes for cattle has increased $3 to $4 “and nobody can afford to feed, and now’s the time we need to feed the most, because we haven’t got any grass.”

Scott said there’s little farmers and ranchers can do, except cut their losses and hold on for better days – if possible.

“Everybody is living day-to-day waiting for the next big rain,” he said. “And even then, we wonder if it’s going to be enough.”