Energy & Environment

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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weather
2:17 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

El Niño More Likely To Return This Summer

Surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. El Niño creates unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A weather pattern that could bring cooler temperatures and more rain to Texas is likely to develop this month or next, according to climate forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“There is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13,” NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said. “El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012.” In June, NOAA predicted only a 50 percent likelihood that El Niño would return in the second half of the year. El Niño creates unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

NOAA also updated its summer hurricane forecast today, suggesting we may have a “busy second half” of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin. They expect 12 to 17 tropical storms by November, including five to eight hurricanes, of which two to three could strengthen into major hurricanes. Tropical Storm Ernesto is currently spinning in the Gulf of Mexico and headed to a flood-prone inland area in the Los Tuxtlas region of Mexico, the AP reports. 

As StateImpact Texas points out, Texas needs just the right kind of storms, moist enough to drench the dry zones, but not powerful enough to erode the coastline, which is currently receding at an average rate of six feet per year

The Two-Way
3:47 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

July Warmest Month on Record For U.S., But Not For Texas

Only one color was needed to show where July ranks in terms of hottest months on record.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 12:14 pm

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Environment
2:18 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Pflugerville Bee Attack Has Central Texans on Alert

Rains this summer have boosted insect populations, including bees.
flickr.com/botterillgallery

A 40-year old man is now in stable condition after he was stung by bees about 300 times this morning in Pflugerville.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Office says they’re seeing higher populations of most types of insects this year – including aphids, cicadas and bees.

“Since we’ve been having more rain this year, there have been more plants available as a food source and the honey bees have an opportunity to collect nectar so there do tend to me more numbers – I’ve been getting more calls on bees than I have in the past few years," Extension Program Specialist Wizzie Brown says.

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Environment
12:42 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Burn Ban Back in Place

It's back: A countywide burn ban is in place through Labor Day weekend.
Flickr user Dawn Huczek, http://bit.ly/Nzgxld

A burn ban is back in effect in Travis County. Fire Marshal Hershel Lee recommended the ban be put back in place during a county commissioners’ meeting this morning.

Central Texas had been without a burn ban since mid-July.

But Lee says the last few weeks have been pretty dry and the forecast looks like it will bring more heat and little rain.

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Environment
5:12 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Remembering Lady Bird Johnson This Weekend

Lady Bird Johnson and her husband, former President Lyndon Baines Johnson, contributed to the beautification of the nation's highways.
Lady Bird Wildflower Center

It’s been one hundred years since the birth of the legendary Lady Bird Johnson.

The Texas First Lady's time in the White House was marked by several environmental conservation and beautification efforts – a cause she pursued locally after leaving Washington with the foundation of the National Wildflower Research Center and her work beautifying Town Lake (which was since renamed in her honor).

The Wildflower Center, which bears Lady Bird’s name, remembers Mrs. Johnson this Sunday with a day-long tribute. Admission is free, with doors opening at 9 a.m.

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Environment
3:26 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Drought Map Shows No Significant Changes

This week's drought conditions (R) remain steady compared to the previous week.
U.S. Drought Monitor

As far as the Texas drought goes, no news might be good news.

After steadily improving for months, the U.S. Drought Monitor map shows statewide drought conditions have reached a plateau.

Heavy rains two weeks ago brought more than 10 percent of the state out of any drought. That number remains steady.

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Environment
9:00 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Outside Review for Controversial Fracking Study

Charles “Chip” Groat discussing his study, “Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” in a video from February.
University of Texas Energy Institute

A University of Texas study disputing connections between the oil and gas industry practice of fracking and groundwater contamination is receiving new scrutiny, with the revelation the study’s leader failed to disclose significant financial ties to a drilling company that engages in the practice.

As KUT News reported in February, the report from the UT Energy Institute, “Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” stated that fracking, when executed properly, doesn’t contaminate groundwater. However, contamination may occur as the result of above ground spills or mishandling of wastewater.

StateImpact Texas, a joint reporting partnership of KUT News and NPR, has followed the story. On Monday, highlighting a report from watchdog group  Public Accountablitiy Initiative, it reported study leader Charles “Chip” Groat had extensive industry ties:

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Weather
1:36 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Drought Conditions Improve Across Central Texas

The drought conditions have improved across Central and Eastern Texas from the July 10 map (left) to the July 17 map (right).
U.S. Drought Monitor

Recent rain has lifted much of the Austin area from “severe” to “moderate” drought.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows an improvement across almost all of Central Texas. Williamson County went from extreme drought down to severe. And areas around Bastrop have improved to abnormally dry.

In fact, 12 percent of the state – much of Eastern Texas – is now classified as completely out of drought conditions.

Victor Murphy is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He says it will still be a while before all of Texas sees long-term drought recovery.

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