Energy & Environment

Weather
4:40 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

'Near Critical' Weather Conditions for Wildfires This Weekend

Record highs are predicted for Central Texas tomorrow.
National Weather Service

The National Weather Service is warning about dangerous fire weather this weekend – what it calls "near critical fire weather conditions" beginning Saturday.

Friday is expected to bring record highs to the region. Then a mostly dry cold front will bring strong winds on Saturday morning and the winds will get stronger as the day passes – 15 to 25 mph and gusty, the NWS says.

Some thunderstorms forecast for Saturday could produce dry lightning, which could cause wildfires to break out.

Burn bans are currently effect in Travis, Hays, Williamson, Burnet and Blanco counties. 

Environment
12:39 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Travis County Extends Burn Ban

Outdoor burning is prohibited in unincorporated areas of Travis County.
flickr.com/vabachi

Travis County commissioners voted unanimously this morning to extend the burn ban into October. The county is still in a moderate drought and we’ve had several days of record breaking temperatures and low relative humidity.

Travis County Fire Marshal Hershel Lee says the burn ban appears to be working. 

“I have spoken with several of the fire chiefs out west this morning where the county is the driest, and they are reporting very little activity other than a few runs for people who are burning when they should not have been, and between the fire departments and the sheriff’s office, they have taken care of those," Lee says.

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Environment
2:09 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Stage 2 Watering Restrictions Take Effect Next Week

While returning to Stage 2 restrictions, the city is easing some rules on hand watering and sprinkler use.
Austin Water Utility

The City of Austin is implementing Stage 2 water restrictions starting Tuesday because of declining lake levels, but the rules will be slightly different than before.

“The combined lake levels between Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis has been the trigger,” Austin Water Utility spokesperson Jason Hill said. “It looks as if those two lakes combined will hit that 900,000 acre-foot trigger or go below it in the next week or so.”

The Lower Colorado River Authority says the lakes are currently 45 percent full and contain about 905,499 acre-feet of water. One acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre one-foot-deep in water. It amounts to 325,851 gallons, or enough to supply two to three households for a year.

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Weather
2:23 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Central Texas Standing By to Help Isaac Evacuees

While Austin isn't expecting hurricane evacuees, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is calling for donations to the Red Cross.
Mark Dewey for KUT News

Central Texas remains ready to help out with potential evacuees, as Hurricane Isaac – which was just downgraded to a tropical storm – moves slowly through southern Louisiana.

It’s not yet clear if the Red Cross will need to provide storm shelter in Austin. "We have shelters identified and teams of volunteers prepared to manage those shelters, though we haven’t seen those evacuees yet,” American Red Cross Central Texas Region Spokesperson Sara Kennedy says.

Kennedy adds that in Dallas, Red Cross shelters are now open.  But she says they haven’t seen very many evacuees so far.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell says in a statement that the City of Austin will provide help too, should it be needed.  

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Weather
9:50 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Floods, Power Outages In Isaac's Wake

Rescue workers transport residents trapped by rising water from Hurricane Isaac in the River Forest subdivision on Wednesday in LaPlace, Louisiana. The large Level 1 hurricane slowly moved across southeast Louisiana, dumping huge amounts of rain and knocking out power across the Gulf Coast.
Chris Graythen Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 11:04 pm

The Latest at 10:20 p.m. ET. More Than 650,000 Power Outages In La.

That tidbit emerged in a letter from gov. Bobby Jindal to President Obama in which he requested expedited major disaster declaration for the state as a result of damage caused by Isaac.

Here's more from the letter:

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Weather
4:25 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Forecast to Make Landfall as Category 1 Storm Tonight

People sit on a bench along the seawall in the storm surge from Isaac, on Lakeshore Drive along Lake Pontchartrain, as the storm approaches landfall, in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Gerald Herbert AP

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 10:13 pm

The Latest At 11:06 P.M. ET Little Change In Strength

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Isaac will continue moving near or over the southeastern coast of Louisiana on Tuesday night, and move inland during the next day or so.

"Little change in strength is forecast tonight," it said at 10 p.m. CDT. "Slow weakening is expected after that."

As we reported earlier, widespread flooding was expected. Isaac was moving toward Baton Rouge, La.

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Weather
1:48 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Brings Elevated Fire Risk to Central Texas

Hurricane Isaac won't likely bring rain to Central Texas but it will probably bring hot, breezy conditions.
NOAA

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 weekend before 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."

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Environment
12:52 pm
Mon August 27, 2012

Austin Water Offers Landscaping Rebates

Austin Water says some types of grass and plants require more moisture than is typical in Texas.
KUT News

City of Austin Water Utility customers could get up to $1250 in rebates for changing their landscaping.

The water utility wants customers to replace thirsty turfgrass with native plant beds and permeable hardscapes that demand less water. Austin Water says some Central Texans have gardens and yards with plants that are not the best for the area.

“Some of the St. Augustine and other types of plants look pretty but they may not be successful in the kind of heat and especially the kind of drought that we’ve been experiencing. So we work with customers to help them choose better plants, better landscapes that are water wise," Austin Water Utility spokesperson Jill Mayfield says.

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weather
7:55 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac Strengthens As It Heads Toward Louisiana

The National Hurricane Center's track forecast for Isaac.
NOAA NOAA

Originally published on Mon August 27, 2012 2:04 pm

UPDATE at 2:40 ET:


Here's the National Hurricane Center's update at 1:00 CDT on Monday:

...HEAVY RAINS AND FLOODING AFFECTING THE FLORIDA EAST COAST... SIGNIFICANT STORM SURGE THREAT EXPECTED FOR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST...

The storm surge for south-central Louisiana was expected to be 3 to 6 feet, the NHC said.

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Environment
2:41 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

During Drought, Austin Cleans Streets With Drinkable Water

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

When it is still dark outside you can hear the city’s sweeping and flushing trucks cleaning the downtown streets from gum, trash or even urine that lingers on the streets from the night before. Often you can hear water flushing on the streets and you wonder: Isn’t there a water restriction?

Recent rains might make you think otherwise, but the city of Austin is still in "moderate drought." That's why we are currently under Stage I watering restrictions. But When it comes to cleaning the streets of downtown Austin, the rules do not apply to the city itself, says Jill Mayfield, spokesperson from the Austin Water Utility Department.

“There is an exemption for water that’s used to protect health, safety or welfare for the public," Mayfield explained. "One example is street cleaning. We have so much pedestrian traffic and vehicle traffic, that it is important to keep our streets clean and healthy."

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Environment
3:15 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Feds Propose Designating Four More Endangered Salamanders

The Jollyville Plateau Salamander lives in the plateau it gets its name from, as well as the Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau in Travis and Williamson County.
City of Austin by Mark Sanders

Four salamander species native to Central Texas have moved closer to being classified as "endangered" by the federal government.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 60-day public comment period today, asking for feedback on its proposal to protect four salamanders that live only in the waters of the Edwards Aquifer.

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Environment
12:35 pm
Tue August 21, 2012

Texas Officials Cheer As Court Reverses EPA Pollution Rule

The EPA says cross-state air pollution rules are necessary to protect air quality but a court decided the regulation was too far-reaching.
Environmental Protection Agency

You could call it a win for Texas officials in their ongoing battle against the Environmental Protection Agency.

A federal appeals court decided this morning the EPA went beyond its authority with a cross-state air pollution rule. The rule would have clamped down on power plant pollution that affects air quality in neighboring states. It was set to go in effect in January but several states, including Texas, sued to stop it.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is leading the charge for Texas against the EPA. He issued this statement about today's ruling:

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Environment
4:10 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Hot, Dry Weather = Burn Bans, Severe Drought Conditions

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows portions of Central Texas have moved from moderate to severe drought.

Recent hot and dry weather has prompted several Central Texas counties to issue burn bans.

Travis, Williamson, Hays and Burnet Counties are all prohibiting outdoor burning.

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Environment
9:54 am
Wed August 15, 2012

Panel Appointed to Review Controversial Fracking Study

A fracking study led by UT professor Charles Groat is being reviewed, in light of his ties to companies that engage in the practice.
University of Texas Energy Institute

The University of Texas at Austin has put together a panel of three experts to review a professor’s disputed study on hydraulic fracking.

UT professor Charles Groat’s study stated there’s little or no evidence that fracking’s connected with groundwater contamination. But the results of the study came into question after a watchdog group noted Groat has received money from a company that does fracking.

StateImpact Texas shares the make up of the panel:

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Environment
3:43 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

A 'Crazy' Ant Invasion?

Rasberry crazy ants can cause problems because they multiply very quickly.
Tom Rasberry, rasberrycrazyants.com

The Texas AgriLife Extension Office is tracking an insect new to Central Texas – a type of ant. It doesn’t sting like the fire ant but it can cause its own set of problems.

It's called the Rasberry crazy ant.

No, it doesn't like raspberries. The breed was actually discovered by a guy whose last name is Rasberry. And the "crazy" part? Well the reddish-brown, eighth-of-an-inch long ant is a prodigious breeder. Which means a small hill can turn into a full on home invasion very quickly.

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