As wildfires tear across West Texas and leave a 309,500 acre path of scorched earth, the drought situation here in Central Texas is becoming increasingly dangerous. Patches of the region are experiencing the most intense drought conditions classified by the US Drought Monitor.
"We're extremely dry, and because of that our fire danger has really gone up," Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose told KUT News. "It's one of the driest six month periods on records."
Rose says we've seen a little over five inches of rain since November. He says conditions could worsen as temperatures warm into the summer.
Much of the Central Texas region is currently in "extreme drought", according to the US Drought Monitor. That's the second most severe classification of drought, and the same category that West Texas finds itself in.
Some of Central Texas, including parts of Bastrop County, are experiencing "exceptional drought" conditions. That is the most intense drought condition provided by the US Drought Monitor.
Exceptional drought can lead to "widespread crop/pasture losses; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams, and wells creating water emergencies," according to the US Drought Monitor's explanation of terms.
Bastrop and Caldwell counties have suffered such fierce drought over the past couple years that that the federal government is providing disaster relief funding to some farmers, according to the Bastrop Advertiser.
[County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources Rachel] Bauer said the still-dry conditions would slow pastures coming out of dormancy in the spring, which would cause producers to have to feed their animals hay for longer, a cost that can add up. And if pastures in Bastrop and Caldwell counties are unable to grow enough hay to stockpile, those with livestock would have to go outside those areas again to purchase more expensive hay.
A 36-acre wildfire broke out in Bastrop last month. Here's footage from mid-2009, when a wildfire singed 1,500 acres in Bastrop County.