environment

Weather
3:51 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

Risky Fire Conditions Still in Place This Weekend

The National Weather Service says Central Texans can expect dry conditions this weekend.
National Weather Service

Much anticipated relief from triple-digit temperatures is coming Saturday – but at a cost.

As KUT News reported yesterday, a dry cold front blowing in tomorrow is creating an elevated wildfire risk.

While Saturday’s high temperature is expected to be a comparatively cool 92 degrees, wind is coming from the north at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.  Travis County Fire Marshall Hershel Lee says those conditions remind him of last year’s Memorial Day weekend, when wildfires broke out all over Central Texas.

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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. 

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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Military
11:08 am
Wed August 29, 2012

San Antonio Troops Responding to Hurricane Isaac

An emergency response vehicle unloads in San Antonio during a training exercise. Several San Antonio-based soldiers are currently responding to Hurricane Isaac.
U.S. Army

Approximately 80 members of U.S. Army North have been dispatched from San Antonio to four states in the path of Hurricane Isaac.

Army North supports FEMA and local first responders during disasters, providing services ranging from flood rescue to fire control.

Sixty soldiers were deployed to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands when then-Tropical Storm Isaac moved through. They have now been redeployed to the Gulf Coast states.

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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 Makes Landfall In Southeast Louisiana, Headed For Baton Rouge

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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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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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
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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Environment
4:12 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

What's That Smell? Algae Bloom Causing 'Musty' Smelling Water

High levels of blue green algae in Lake Austin may result in "earthy" smelling water.
flickr.com/hayesandjenn

A blue green algae bloom in Lake Austin may lead to “musty” or “earthy” smelling and tasting water for some Austinites says Austin Water, the utility responsible for city water treatment and distribution.

Jason Hill, a spokesman for Austin Water, said there is no way to know what parts of the city might receive the water, but that the strange smell does not effect its safety.

Austin Water discovered high levels of the algae in routine samples of the city's raw water. Hill said the company is adding powdered carbon to its treatment process to try and counteract the algae’s scent and flavor.

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Energy
11:33 am
Mon July 16, 2012

Austin's Pecan Street Project on PBS NewsHour

The Pecan Street Project underway in the Mueller community has received national attention.
pecanstreet.org

The Pecan Street Project – a demonstration “smart grid” energy system in the emerging Mueller development – was featured on the PBS NewsHour.

Charles Upshaw, a mechanical engineering graduate student working on the project, told StateImpact Texas the initiative is ”a collaboration between the University of Texas, the City of Austin, Austin Energy and a bunch of companies. In order to really test, and have a real world kind of experiment with high density residential solar, they have offered additional incentives to the [Mueller homeowners] on top of the Austin energy rebate and the federal rebate, so the people in Mueller have an opportunity to get solar really cheaply.”

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Environment
11:39 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Austin Lifts Stage II Water Restrictions

Austin is easing water restrictions, although not to its previous Stage I levels.
flickr.com/amorton

Starting Monday, Austin residents will be able to water two days a week under Stage I restrictions. Stage II water restrictions had been in effect since last September.

The city says wetter than expected conditions this past winter and spring have increased the storage volumes of Lakes Travis and Buchanan. And those levels will be better maintained this year because water is being cut off to rice farmers downstream under the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Emergency Drought Plan.

Despite the improvement in water storage levels, Central Texas remains under drought conditions. But Austin Water spokesperson Jason Hill says it’s important for customers to be able to take care of landscaping as we head into the hottest part of the summer.

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Weather
12:01 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Update: Flash Flood Warning for Bastrop County; Emergency Shelter in Place

A National Weather Service map forecasts continued rain for Central Texas
National Weather Service

Update (Noon): Via Twitter,  Bastrop Country Emergency Operations reports that FM 969 has been reopened.

Travis County Emergency Services reports that Star Flight helicopter service has been requested to search Eastern Travis and Western Bastrop counties. “Reported houses and vehicles submerged. Unknown if there are any victims,” the group says.

The American Red Cross Central Texas Region says they are dispatching a disaster assessment team “to the neighborhood affected by this morning’s flash flood in Webberville, TX. The team will have supplies, snacks, and water, and will be on scene to assess the needs of affected residents. Additional volunteers are standing by to open a shelter if needed.” 

The flash flood warning for Bastrop and portions of Travis County expired at noon. 

Original Post (11:13 a.m.): Bastrop and East Central Travis County are under a flash flood warning until noon, due to heavy rainfall last night and this morning.

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Environment
12:58 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Report: Bad Procedures Caused the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Smoke rises from Unit No. 3 of the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Anonymous AP

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 1:21 pm

On the same day Japan's first nuclear power plant went back online, a panel of Japanese officials released a scathing report on last year's nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant. Their view? The crisis was preventable.

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Weather
1:52 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Central Texas in 'Significant' Short-Term Drought

The map on the left shows drought conditions on June 12, 2012. The map on the right (released today) shows drought conditions on June 19, 2012.
U.S. Drought Monitor

The U.S. Drought Monitor released a new map today – and the news is mixed.

For the first time since March of last year, no part of Texas is under the worst stage of drought. But parts of Central Texas are actually drier than they’ve been in the last few months.

The map shows parts of Travis, Williamson, and Milam counties have been elevated from moderate to severe drought.

That’s because June, which is usually the state’s wettest month, has been abnormally dry. In fact, the last five weeks have been the second driest late May to mid-June on record.

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ROT Rally
3:01 pm
Fri June 8, 2012

Ozone Watch in Effect for ROT Rally Saturday

The ROT parade thundering down Congress Avenue in 2011.
flickr.com/atmtx

While motorcycles rev into Austin for this weekend’s Republic of Texas Rally, they’re not the only thing pulling into the region: try ozone.

The Clean Air Force of Central Texas forecasts “Level Orange” ozone levels for this Saturday. That level sits nearly midpoint in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index – making ozone levels unhealthy for adults and children exerting themselves outside, plus asthmatics and people with lung disease.

How to lower ozone levels? The Clean Air Force suggests limiting driving, riding the bus and avoiding idling – highly unlikely scenarios for tens of thousands of cyclists cruising Austin this weekend. 

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