Kevin Lindsay

Photo by Mathew High

Did you like to go camping in triple digit heat? Would it be more appealing if campfires were banned? Apparently most people don't like to sweat in the dark, even if it's in a beautiful natural surrounding,  and that's helped blow a $4.6 million hole in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) budget.

Now that the weather is more mild and burn bans are being lifted across Texas, TPWD is pleading for people to visit state parks and to make donations.  The agency is holding eleven news conferences across the state today, reminding people that close to half of state park revenue -- about $69 million of the operating budget -- comes from park entrance fees.

“A ‘triple whammy’ of record heat and drought, devastating wildfires and a corresponding decline in visitation and revenue has created a critical need for Texas State Parks,” announced TPWD exective director Carter Smith in a news release. “We are reaching out for help.”

Photo by KUT News

The Palmer Events Center will host a massive cooking effort today. H-E-B employees and volunteers expect to serve over 13,000 people there for the 21st annual Feast of Sharing.

Each plate is free of charge and includes traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and turkey.

While on site at the event, coordinators said volunteers were still welcome. Just show up and be ready to serve a lot of food.

Here's the event, by the numbers: 

Photo by kevin dooley

An Austin-based coin marketer agreed to pay out at total of $5 million in restitution to customers to settle a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General's office. State attorneys charged that U.S. Money Reserve making of false claims in their commercials, in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Photo by Callie Hernandez/KUT News

City and state transportation officials are holding an open house this afternoon to take public input of the first ideas to improve the I-35 corridor through Central Austin.


After nearly two hours of public testimony, the Texas DMV, appointed by Governor Rick Perry, voted unanimously to strike down a state license plate celebrating the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  The group sought to use the proceeds to build new memorials honoring Southern soldiers.   From the beginning, the plate has sparked public controversy with the NAACP at the forefront of opposition.

Last month, Governor Perry expressed that he would not support the license plate.  In an interview with Bay News 9 after a fundraiser in Florida, Perry commented, "We don't need to be scraping up old wounds."

Photo by KUT News

Ever wish you could know about a major traffic jam before you get stuck in one? The City of Austin's Transportation Department hopes it can help you do that by installing 13 electronic signs around the city.

By March of next year, drivers passing by these intersections will be informed of real-time traffic jams, construction, weather conditions, special events, as well as detour routes.

"One of the challenges with downtown Austin is that we are at capacity," Transportation Department spokesperson Leah Fillion said.

Photo by KUT News

Reduced water pressure in North Austin is a concern for Austin Water Utility as they begin repairing a leak in a 6-foot water main on Martin Luther King Dr. They reassured us today that so far, the pressure drops are virtually unnoticeable.

"We had to shut that main off and reroute water through some different transmission mains, so there could be some reduction in pressure on weekends," Austin Water Utility spokesperson Jill Mayfield said. "But last weekend there was no noticeable drop when we shut it off. We expect this will be the case throughout the repair."

Photo courtesy of maddcow

An Austin Energy tradition going on 45 years continued today as the power company hung Christmas lights around the park's moonlight tower. The Zilker Tree will not be lit, however, until December 4. 

Meanwhile, the Trail of Lights is back this year was cancelled again this year. Check out the story here.   

Photo by KUT News

Researchers at Rice University say urban development in Galveston Island should be more focused towards its east end. The island's length, width, and thickness sets a far stronger foundation in the long run than its west coast, according to the study, which was funded by the Shell Center for Sustainability.

"The west end of the island is low, and that makes it more susceptible to storm surge and breaching,"  Rice University oceanography professor John Anderson said. "It's also experiencing erosion rates of three to five feet a year, and during major storms those rates can easily be ten times that amount in a single event."

Image courtesy of Texas Forest Service

At one point in in August, a record 251 out of the state's 254 drought-stricken counties banned outdoor burning. But thanks to last week's cold front and showers, that number has dropped to 220 according to the Associated Press. All the counties around Austin still have bans on outdoor burning. Travis County just readopted one earlier this week.

Photo by KUT News

FEMA is trying to get the word out to Texas wildfire victims that, if they get a letter saying they're ineligible for federal aid, it's may not be the final word.

Ericka Lopez is a FEMA Public Information Officer in Bastrop. She says people can submit a formal appeal within 60 days, if they believe the feds made error.

Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

The Aggie Conservatives at Texas A&M University have posted an online petition demanding that Governor Rick Perry call a special session in the Texas legislature to put an end to the Texas law that allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at the state's colleges and universities. According to the student organization, over 200 have signed as of last night.

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

A man was hit by the MetroRail train yesterday. Officials say the man was walking on the tracks near Parmer Lane and Mopac at around 5:45 pm. Capital Metro spokesman Adam Shaivitz says that this is the first train-pedestrian incident since MetroRail opened in March 2010.

"The most important thing here is the rail safety reminder. It is illegal and highly dangerous to walk on or near railroad tracks, and this was a very serious example that demonstrates these dangers," said Shaivitz.

Photo by Nasa Goddard Photo and Video

Gusty winds, dry air and vegetation, high chance of thunderstorms and warm weather are all contributing factors to the critical fire forecast released today by the Texas Forest Service (TFS). Pretty much everything south of the Texas Panhandle is considered to be at risk. 

Photo by Scutter

People can expect to see thinner animals at the Texas State Fair in Dallas this weekend. The fair's Vice President of the Agriculture and Livestock, Daryl Real, says that this year's extreme drought has made it harder for ranchers to feed their cattle. 

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News.

By January 2013, the University of Texas at Austin will be the host of a new world-class supercomputer as part of a National Science Foundation grant. "Stampede" will be built in a partnership between the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Dell, and Intel and kept at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus - home of another NSF-funded high-performance computer system, Ranger.

Photo by KUT

Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, the Dixie Chicks will headline a benefit concert for Central Texas wildfire victims. Emmy winner Kyle Chandler of the TV show "Friday Night Lights" will host. "Fire Relief: the Concert for Central Texas" is set for October 17 at the Frank Erwin Center. Organizers say every dollar of a single $25 ticket will go to relief efforts. Tickets will be available for purchase at tomorrow at noon.