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Hurricane Isaac Brings Elevated Fire Risk to Central Texas


Hurricane Isaac will probably stay too far east to bring rain to Central Texas, but forecasters believe it will bring windy weather which will then make way for higher temperatures.

Hot, dry and breezy weather is the same combination that we had last Labor Day weekendbefore the devastating wildfires. But Lower Colorado River Authority Chief Meteorologist Bob Rose says things aren’t quite the same.

"We’re not looking at as extreme of critical fire weather conditions as we had last Labor Day weekend," Rose says. "Fortunately this summer we’ve had periods of rain from time to time, we have a little bit greener vegetation and the ground has a little more moisture in it. So the conditions going into this weekend are already not nearly like what they were last year."Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says he is concerned about predicted lower humidity levels and higher winds but agrees the conditions will not be as extreme as in 2011.

"Last Labor Day we experienced temperatures in the 110 degree range and humidity in the 16 to 18 percent range, winds up over 30 miles per hour," Lee says. "Our predicted numbers are not that bad for this year’s event."

Lee says the wildfire risk will still be elevated this weekend and that people should heed burn bans still in effect for counties including Travis and Burnet.

"Labor Day weekend is a weekend that a lot of hunters go into the field to start preparing for hunting season, working on deer blinds and planting fall crops," Lee says. "It’s also a time when people get together just for family holidays so they’ll be outdoor cooking and other things like that. So we just want people to be very careful with outdoor cooking to be sure that they dispose of the ashes in a safe manner or if they’re using some other device that they keep that device away from any combustible material. Or if you’re out in the field working, doing hot work, have somebody on standby to be a good fire watch for you."

And, Lee says, there’s one more element that makes him feel a little less concerned going into Labor Day weekend this year.

"I think people are more aware this year. They know we’re coming up on the anniversary and a lot of people have been preparing their homes and their properties and things like that," Lee says. "So people are a little more aware this year than they were last year and I expect that people will be more careful this year. No one in Travis or Bastrop County is going to say ‘well, that can’t happen to us’ because they have already experienced it."

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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