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.
Greg Westfall/flickr

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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4:16 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Texas Grocery Prices Fluctuate As Beef Price Surge Looms

This grid from the Texas Farm Bureau shows how grocery prices have changed. The "quarterly change" represents price fluctuations over the last three months.
Photo by Texas Farm Bureau

The price of grapefruit in Texas skyrocketed by almost 25 percent from June to September and sliced turkey was up 14 percent. But chicken breast was six percent cheaper over the same time frame and the price of a head of lettuce cost nine percent less.

Average it all out, and Texas food prices were relatively steady over the last three months, according to the Texas Farm Bureau’s Grocery Price Watch report.

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3:00 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Fixing Leaky Toilets to Conserve Water

An Austin plumbing company wants to save the city 3-million gallons of water every month, one toilet flapper at a time.
Photo by KUT News.

An Austin-based plumbing company is taking on an ambitious job to battle the ongoing drought. Radiant Plumbing says it can save the city three million gallons of water per month. It plans on doing this by replacing one thousand leaky toilet flappers for free. Sarah Casebier is one of Radiant Plumbing's co-owners.

“If we wanted to do something that makes a difference, there’s not a lot of things that a plumber can do," she told KUT News. "But this is something we can do.”

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News Brief
7:05 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Top Morning Stories September 21, 2011

Low lake levels, including at Lake Travis, have the LCRA considering reducing or cutting off water supplies to some farmers.
Photo by KUT News.

LCRA Vote Could Cut Off Water for Farmers

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Board is scheduled to vote today on plans that could reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers. 

LCRA staff recommends cutting off water to farmers, if lake levels don’t fill up significantly and if dry conditions continue into next year. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would have to approve any of the LCRA’s plans.  Lakes Travis and Buchanan are a major water supply for Central Texas cities, including Austin.

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12:08 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

LCRA May Cut Off Water to Farmers

The Lower Colorado River Authority is considering reducing or cutting off water to farmers because of dropping lake levels and the ongoing drought.
KUT News

The Lower Colorado River Authority is considering asking the state for permission to reduce or cut off water from the Highland Lakes to farmers next year because of the ongoing drought and dropping lake levels. In a press release, the LCRA stated: 

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2:06 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Biologists Set To Rescue Fish From Drying Texas Rivers

Originally published on Fri September 16, 2011 11:34 am

This news story from the Associated Press gives you an idea of just how bad drought conditions are in Texas:

Wildlife biologists on Friday will evacuate two species of minnows from the shrinking waters of a West Texas river in the first of what could be several rescue operations involving fish affected by the state's worst drought in decades.

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6:34 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Texas Water Utility Plans for Drought Worse Than 1950s

Water levels have dropped at Lake Travis because the drought, May 16 2011.
Lower Colorado River Authority

Fearing that this drought could reduce lake levels lower than ever before, the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority, the wholesale supplier of water to Austin and other Central Texas cities, plans to meet next week to discuss reducing or ending its water sales to downriver farmers next year.

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5:38 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

WilCo Nixes Smoking In Parks, Hays Extends Burn Ban

Southwest Williamson County Regional Park is one the places affected by the smoking ban.
Photo by City of Round Rock http://www.flickr.com/photos/cityofroundrock/

Williamson County followed Austin’s lead today and banned smoking in parks, nature preserves, and along trails. The parched conditions make it ripe for wildfires. Outdoor cooking is still allowed as long as it’s done in an enclosure that contains all flames and sparks.

Austin banned smoking and charcoal grilling in parks back in April. The restriction will remain in effect during the Austin City Limits music festival, which takes place in Austin’s Zilker Park this weekend.

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1:33 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Gulf Coast Braces For Major Drenching

A satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed the tropical low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday.

Originally published on Fri September 2, 2011 5:00 pm

A slow-moving depression strengthened into a tropical storm as it slogged toward the Gulf Coast on Friday, packing walloping rains that could drench the region with up to 20 inches.

Tropical Storm Lee, the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, was moving northwest at just 2 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm's center is expected to approach the Louisiana coast over the weekend.

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1:45 pm
Fri August 26, 2011

In Response to Drought, State Ramps up "Hay Hotline"

Crops are dying in the fields in Texas, due to extreme heat and drought. That means little feed for livestock. It all adds up to an agricultural catastrophe.
Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News

Ranchers are suffering through the worst one-year drought in Texas history. Many have given up trying to feed their cattle and are bringing them to auction at double, or even triple the normal rate.  For those holding on to their livestock, finding affordable feed is a growing challenge.

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1:06 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

Rain Briefly Greets Austin This Afternoon

Brief showers developed over parts of Austin. NWS meteorologists say Austin could see a little bit more from small storms coming from East Texas.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Did you leave your car windows down today? You’ll probably return to some damp car seats. Parts of Austin finally saw some rain this afternoon. The weather that is usually considered an annoyance for those working and walking outside, was instead a welcome change.

“It wasn’t much, but it’s something,” said one of a group of construction workers who were relieved they finally have some cloud cover.

“It's cooler but it’s more humid,” said UT freshman Cristina Portillo. “I’d rather have the dry heat. ”

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5:00 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

Texas Parks and Wildlife Issues Black Bear Warning

Photo by Alanahmontreal at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanahmontreal/3860014203/

Leaving out cat food for the neighborhood cat? You might be feeding the neighborhood bear instead, according to a statement by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“We’re getting a few reports of people seeing bears during daylight hours, and that’s unusual,” says Mike Krueger of Texas Parks and Wildlife. “It’s the associated water around homes and the food. The pet food, the smell of cooking; all those things could attract bears. ”

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12:26 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

Report: Texas Crop Losses At $5.2 Billion

The drought has taken its toll on a Burleson County pasture.
Photo by Blair Fannin/Texas AgriLife Extension Service

State agriculture officials say farmers and ranchers in Texas have suffered $5.2 billion in losses since last November, due to the current drought.

That tops the previous record for agriculture losses set back in 2006.

The losses cut across most of the state's crops, including cotton, corn, wheat, sorghum and hay.

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1:16 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Drought Leads to a Rise In Animal Bites

Kelly Conrad Bender, an urban wildlife biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, shows off a Mexican Milk snake. Bender discussed the issues involving the drought and wild animal bites at the University Medical Center at Brakenridge.
Photo by Jessie Wang for KUT News

The number of venomous bites and stings has increased since last year as the drought sends snakes and other wild animals searching for food and water.

Kelly Conrad Bender, an urban wildlife biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, came to the University Medical Center Brakenridge to explain the changes in wildlife.

“Wildlife, these individual animals, has not experienced this kind of drought, but their species has. They are the result of thousands of years of adaptation to our climate and these droughts do happen occasionally, maybe once every 50 to 100 years. So the species, given appropriate habitat and given a good balanced stable habitat, they will survive and they’ll come out stronger,” Bender said.

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2:18 pm
Mon August 1, 2011

Burn Bans in Place in a Record 249 Counties

A record number of burn bans are in place in Texas with 249 counties.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas Forest Service maintains a map of which counties in the state have outdoor burn bans, and notes them in red. As of this morning, the map makes Texas look like it's got a bad sunburn.

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4:52 pm
Fri July 29, 2011

Hays County Reminds Businesses of Drought Disaster Assistance

Severe drought conditions throughout Texas have made federally-subsidized loans available to small businesses.
Photo Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

Hays County officials sent out a quick reminder to his week to help raise awareness of U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans.

The SBA announced in June that small, non-farm businesses in all 254 Texas counties are eligible to apply for low-interest disaster loans to help cover financial losses caused by the drought. But the Hays County Commissioners Court worried local businesses didn't know they could apply for the help.

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