12:39 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

State Climatologist: Drought at Least 1 More Year

Two Texas senate committees held a joint hearing Tuesday to discuss the state's ongoing drought.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

What does the future hold for the Texas drought? Two Texas Senate committees heard testimony today on what has become the worst single-year dry spell in Texas history. The state’s climatologist, John Nielsen- Gammon, told lawmakers not to expect relief anytime soon.

“Going forward this drought is likely to last another year at least because the primary trigger of the drought, La Nina in the Pacific, has returned so it’s extremely unlikely we will come out of drought conditions by the winter,” Nielsen-Gammon said during a hearing at the Capitol Tuesday morning. 

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News Brief
5:28 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Top Morning Stories November 1, 2011

Texas Senators to Discuss Drought

Two Texas Senate committees are meeting this morning to discuss the state's ongoing drought. The Senate's Natural Resources Committee and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee are meeting together to hear invited testimony from experts about the drought and how long it's likely to last. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows most of the state is still in exceptional or extreme drought status.

Officer-Involved Shooting in Georgetown

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1:36 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Drought's Economic Impact Spreading Across Texas

Photo by Molly Jade for Texas Tribune

A year into the driest stretch in recorded state history, most Texans are still far from running out of water. But the devastating economic impact is beginning to extend beyond rural agriculture and into tourism, real estate and other staples of more urbanized economies.

The tiny town of Robert Lee, the self-described "Playground of West Texas,” is already reeling from these problems. 

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4:59 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

The Top 25 Water Users in Austin


A few years back, Lance Armstrong was caught. He apologized, admitted the error of his ways, and promised to do better in the future. His offense? Using too much water.

Armstrong had used 330,000 gallons of water in July 2008. He hadn’t even been home at his three acre, 14,475 square foot estate. “I’m a little shocked,” he told a newspaper at the time. “There’s no justification for that much water. I need to fix this.”

Well, it’s been several summers since then, this last one being notable for being the hottest and driest on record. And the city is in stage two watering restrictions because of the historic drought.  But it would appear Armstrong has not learned how to conserve. According to data from Austin Water Utility, he used around 1.3 million gallons of water in the last year, putting him among the top ten residential users of water in town.

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1:54 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

New Federal Forecast Says Drought to Worsen Over Winter

Photo by AgriLife Today / Kay Ledbetter

While already-sodden northern regions of the United States can expect above-average rains this winter, the worst one-year drought in Texas history looks set to persist in the coming months, federal forecasters said today.

It is "most likely that severe drought will persist through the winter" in the Southern Plains, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA's Climate Predictions Center, speaking on a press call timed with the release of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Winter Outlook, which covers the months of December through February.

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3:54 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

If Drought Worsens, Austin Could Be Forced To Cut Water Use By 20 Percent

Lake Travis water levels are approaching historic lows.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

Austin would have to reduce its water consumption by a whopping 20 percent if the current drought surpasses the ten-year drought of record that occurred during the 1940's and 50's, something that could happen as soon as this spring.  The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) board decided today that it would go into “pro rata curtailment” if Lakes Travis and Buchanan drop below 600,000 acre feet.

“Pro rata curtailment” would mean all LCRA customers would have to reduce their draw by 20 percent. Austin gets all of its water from the Colorado River, so that would leave little wiggle room for the city.

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1:45 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

Lubbock Cleans Up From Dust Storm

The dust storm turned daylight an ominous red in Lubbock.
Photo by timandkris http://www.flickr.com/photos/timandkris/

Life is getting back to normal in Lubbock after a dust cloud shrouded the city on Monday. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper described it as an “end-of-the world sight”, and when you check out this video, you can see why.

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4:56 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Where's the Wildfire Benefit Money Going?

Photo by KUT News

Monday night's star-studded concert at the Erwin Center benefiting Central Texas wildfire victims raised more than $500,000. 

We sat down with MariBen Ramsey of the Austin Community Foundation – the beneficiary of the fundraising proceeds -- and asked Ramsey to explain where this money's going to go.

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News Brief
7:20 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Top Morning Stories October 17, 2011

This week is Native Texas Plant Week.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Possible Austin Energy Rate Hikes

The Electric Utility Commission of Austin will meet this evening at six to discuss Austin Energy’s proposed rate hikes from August. Members of the public are invited to speak at tonight’s meeting. The event will be held at Town Lake Center on Barton Springs Road. There will be an additional special-called meeting this Thursday. Read KUT's report on the proposed rate changes.

Bastrop Relief Concert

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12:04 pm
Mon October 10, 2011

Much-Needed Rain Provides Some Relief

Rainfall over the weekend was the heaviest Austin has seen since June.
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

This weekend's rain is helping to replenish the Highland Lakes - at least a little bit.  In the Austin area, most places got 1.5-2 inches of rain. Cedar Park and Leander got 2-2.5 inches. Further northwest in the Hill County 4-6 inches of rain fell. Lower Colorado River Authority Meteorologist Bob Rose says that was good for the Highland Lakes two water storage reservoirs.

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9:22 am
Sun October 9, 2011

Sunday Morning Roundup for October 9

Good news: It's raining. Bad news: It may be too much rain for extremely dry ground. A Flash Flood Watch remain in effect over Central Texas until 6:00 tonight.
Image courtesy National Weather Service

The broken heat records, the endless months of dry weather are gone...at least for today.

Flash Flood Watch for Central Texas

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williamson county
2:27 pm
Fri October 7, 2011

Emergency Ban On All Watering In Round Rock, Georgetown

Photo by flick3r&fade http://www.flickr.com/photos/rltherichman/

Round Rock and Georgetown are moving to their highest level of drought emergency because of the mechanical failure of two pumps that move water from a lake in Bell County to Lake Georgetown, a major source of water for people who live in the area.

“Basically, any [Georgetown resident] on the west side of I-35, their water is coming from Lake Georgetown,” city spokesman Keith Hutchinson told KUT News. “It’s our primary water supply.”

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4:40 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Hay Shortage Frazzles Texas Horse Owners

One of Stephanie Reed's horses in Dale, Texas
Photo by Emily Donahue, KUT News

The drought is causing severe shortages of hay across Texas, and that’s making life difficult for people who own horses.

If you can even find someone to sell you hay, you’ll probably have to pay through the nose for it. Stephanie Reed has a few horses in Dale, Texas.

“In 2010, it was still a little high, but the average cost for a round bale of hay was $45 to $50 dollars,” Reed said. “Today, I am paying between $125 and $150.”

It’s just one of the many economic consequences of the worst single-year drought in Texas history.

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parks and recreation
1:35 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

City Trying to Give Some Teeth to Burn Ban in Parks

Smoking is banned in all city parks, including Auditorium Shores.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

No smoking, grilling or any kind of open flames are allowed at city parks in Austin right now, but the city can’t really enforce that ban.  That's because parks police can only ask people to stop those actions.  A resolution on tomorrow’s city council agenda could change that. 

It would direct the city manager to create an ordinance that would make it illegal to have an open flame in a park when a burn ban is in effect. Violations would be a Class C misdemeanor, with a fine likely around a couple hundred bucks.

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11:54 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Bastrop County Fire’s Growth Slows

An image of the fire just hours after it broke out on October 4. The blaze is now 25 percent contained.
Photo by Matt Largey, KUT News

Update at 12:45 p.m.: Bastrop County's Office of Emergency Management reports on their Facebook page that the Old Potato Road fire apparently hasn't burned as much land as earlier thought.

County officials quote the Texas Forest Service, saying the fire has only consumed 315 acres.  Earlier estimates had the fire consuming 1,000 acres.

The fire is now listed as 50 percent contained. 

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2:53 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

White-Tailed Deer Bow Hunting Season Begins

White-Tailed deer bow hunting season begins tomorrow. The general season begins November 5th.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Greg Westfall

Bow hunting season for White-tailed deer starts tomorrow in Texas. The ongoing extreme drought has culled deer population in many parts of the state. Nevertheless, Chris Mitchell with Texas Parks and Wildlife says the department wants hunters to take their full bag limit of deer this season. And that's less about sport and more about survival of the species.

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4:07 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Incoming Cold Front Prompts Wildfire Worries

From this past year, NASA showing high winds spurring fire.
Photo by Nasa Goddard Photo and Video http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/5632231268/sizes/l/in/photostream/

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. 

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3:42 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Drought Causes Millions in Losses for Lake Travis Economy

This image shows the economic impact of Lake Travis levels. The lake is currently at 629 feet.
Image by Robert Charles Lesser & Co

Lake Travis is an engine for economic activity that pumps $668 million into the local community and supports about 5,200 jobs, according to a new analysis. But low lake levels are draining money from the area.

Specifically, when Lake Travis falls beneath 660 feet above sea level, visitor spending drops by up to $33.8 million, the report by Robert Charles Lesser & Co says. The report was commissioned by Travis County and local business owners, many of whom hope to affect the LCRA's Highland Lakes policy.

 When Lake Travis gets below 650 feet, the study says it’s even worse, “driven by the closure of most of the lake’s boat ramps as well as media attention.”

Lake Travis is currently at 629 feet.

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5:26 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Insurance Companies to Pay $250 Million To Bastrop Fire Victims

The remnants of a home in the Tahitian Village neighborhood of Bastrop.
Photo by Raymond Thompson for KUT News and ReportingTexas.com

Insured losses from a 34,000 acre wildfire that tore across Bastrop County will total $250 million, according to the Insurance Council of Texas. Bastrop home and business owners have collectively filed about 1,500 claims so far.

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4:27 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Draft Water Plan Says Texas "Will Not Have Enough"

You can see the effect of the drought on this dry creek bed at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Every five years, the Texas Water Development Board publishes a water plan for the state. The 295-page draft of the 2012 plan, published last week in the midst of the worst-ever single-year drought Texas has ever experienced, is a sobering read.

"The primary message of the 2012 state water plan is a simple one," the introduction states. "In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises."

The report is packed with data and projections, but a few stand out. The state population, now 25 million, is expected to increase to 46 million by 2060. During that time, existing water supplies will fall 10 percent as the Ogallala and other aquifers are depleted.

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