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White Water Baldy Complex

A little more than nine months after wildfires devastated parts of Central Texas, new fires are spreading through New Mexico, burning over 278,000 acres of forest. Twenty-five states, including Texas, have sent support to help fight the blaze.

April Saginor with the Texas Forest Service says some cities in Texas like San Antonio can afford to send firefighters and aid because the state has fewer fires to battle themselves.

 

“It’s happening, but they’re much smaller than they were last year, and we were able to contain them rather quickly,” she said. “So we’re in good shape right now, but we’re waiting to see what kind of rain we get later this month.”

Image courtesy U.S. Drought Monitor

The worst drought in Texas history isn’t over but it’s not as bad – at least for now.

Most of Central Texas is classified as “abnormally dry.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor released a new drought map today and it shows most of the area is under the least severe stage of drought. The western part of Travis County and much of the hill country is a little bit drier – considered in “moderate” drought.

Photo courtesy Clear Channel Outdoor

The Texas Gulf Coast is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.

Today emergency and traffic officials tested digital billboards that will provide emergency messages throughout the Houston area.

Drivers saw a message that said, “Emergency Alert: This is only a test.”

KUT News

City Elections Tomorrow

Election Day is tomorrow for the Austin municipal elections. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Fourteen candidates are running for four seats on the Austin City Council, including mayor.

Perhaps the most closely watched aspect of the election is the challenge to Mayor Lee Leffingwell by former council member Brigid Shea. Shea accused Leffingwell earlier this week of violating campaign finance laws, and throughout the campaign, has maintained that Austin is becoming more unaffordable

That's a common refrain among political challengers – that they will protect the citizenry's collective pocketbook better than the last guy.  But in the case of Shea, currently a community strategist and consultant, the arrival of huge companies like Apple and Formula One cast her position in a different light. 

Image courtesy National Weather Service

Update: Austin and Central Texas are now under a severe thunderstorm watch. The region has already had a couple of tornado warnings today around San Antonio. But there's still the chance of damaging storms in Austin through the early part of the evening.

"Right now the Austin area remains under a severe thunderstorm watch until 8 o'clock tonight, which is mainly for the possibility of large hail and damaging winds,” says Bob Rose, chief meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority. “But sometimes you can get tornadoes even under a severe thunderstorm watch as well. So it's not totally out of the question because this is a very dynamic system."

Rose says some parts of Central Texas could get up to six inches of rain by tomorrow.

A flash flood watch is in effect tonight through tomorrow afternoon for much of Central Texas. Heavy rain is expected –  with totals as high as five inches in some areas.

The National Weather Service writes:

Scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms will continue through the overnight hours. Some of these storms could become severe, with large hail and damaging winds. Expect lows to be in the mid-60s to low 70s. Winds will start out at southeast, 10 to 15 mph, but will become east to northeast, at about 5 to 10 mph.

Photo Courtesy of National Weather Service

South-Central Texas Flood Watch

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for South-Central Texas, beginning today and lasting into Tuesday evening.

The flash flood impact should be highest overnight tonight into Tuesday morning. According to the advisory, average rainfall is estimated between one and two inches, with higher totals reaching into three to five inches.

“A flash flood watch is in effect for Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon for the area North and West and I-35 and HWY 90. There is a chance for locally heavy rain and flash flooding Thursday and Friday. Otherwise no hazardous weather is expected at this time.”

The National Weather Services says "strong thunderstorms with locally heavy rain" may hit by Sunday.
Photo courtesy National Weather Service

The weird weather systems that produced hail by the foot in the Texas Panhandle this week is hanging around. And while Austin isn’t expected to bear  the brunt of severe weather, it still could make for a wet weekend.

The National Weather Service writes that a tornado outbreak is likely across the nation’s midsection this weekend. A technical version of its forecast can be found here, but on its Facebook page, NWS writes:

The Storm Prediction Center is forecasting a high risk of severe weather, including strong tornadoes, over Kansas and Oklahoma on Saturday evening into the overnight hours. The overall risk area includes Nebraska, much of Iowa, western Illinois, northwest Missouri, and northern Texas.

Photo courtesy National Weather Service

A freak storm dumped a whopping four feet of hail on part of North Amarillo this week, says the National Weather Service.

KUT News’ StateImpact Texas project noted the strange occurrence, news of which proliferated across Facebook thanks to an incredible photo the National Weather Service office in Amarillo shared: an area firefighter standing next to a makeshift retaining wall filled to the brim with hailstones.

StateImpact Texas writes:

In an interview with MSNBC, Krissy Scotten, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service in Amarillo, denied that the photo just showed ice on top of rocks, as some skeptics asserted after seeing it. “I can assure you we do not have big rocks like that in West Texas,” she told MSNBC. She said the four feet of ice was caused by a lot of rain and water. “Anytime you have hail accumulate 2 to 4 feet high and get over three inches of rain, no matter how it occurs, it’s pretty incredible,” she told the news site. 

Image courtesy NWS

There’s a chance of severe thunderstorms in the area this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Battling it out with high temperatures, storms could bring hail and damaging winds, and the NWS says as much as two inches of rain could fall per hour. Further away from the city, parts of the Austin/San Antonio region could also see golf ball size hail. 

Image courtesy National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has called off a flash flood watch for Travis County, originally in effect until noon. 

In its forecast for the region, NWS writes

Photo courtesy National Weather Service

Caution Urged in Storm’s Aftermath

Storms pummeled the Austin area overnight. Mayor Lee Leffingwell has issued a statement “calling on Central Texans to be cautious and patient after storms moved through our city last night:”

View Extreme Weather Road Closures - 3/20/12 in a larger map

Extreme weather hit Austin overnight, creating several road closures and power outages. Here's what you need to know. 

Street Closures: 

Several closures are in effect, as listed by the  City of Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management. We’ve mapped them above. 

Update (11:35 am): Austin street closures have changed, which we've reflected in the map and the list below.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/dpbear

Significant rain fall in Central Texas forced the overnight opening of flood gates on two dams in the Highland Lakes.

“Flood gates are still open on Wirtz and Starcke Dams," says Lower Colorado River Authority spokesperson Clara Tuma. "And we need to emphasize that there is a lot of swift moving water moving through the lakes down to Lake Travis. So people need to take precautions to protect people and property that might be affected by that water."

Image courtesy National Weather Service

The National Weather Service’s flash flood warning, in place for Travis, Hays and Willimason County, is on course to expire at 8 a.m.:

AT 509 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS HAVE DETERMINED THAT RAINFALL ESTIMATES FROM DOPPLER RADAR INDICATE  FLASH FLOODING ACROSS THE I35 CORRIDOR FROM NEW BRAUNFELS TO THE  AUSTIN AND GEORGETOWN AREAS. ADDITIONAL RAINS OF ONE HALF INCH OVER AREAS THAT HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED HEAVY RAINFALL OVERNIGHT WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP FLOODING PROBLEMS ONGOING.

Image courtesy National Weather Service

With flash flood watches and warnings for most of Central Texas, Austin’s Hill Country neighbors are also experiencing weather-related woes.

Hays County:

Several road closures are in effect in Kyle, Wimberley, Driftwood and Dripping Springs.

KYLE-  

BUNTON LN @ BUNTON CREEK

S. PLUM CREEK @ LOW WATER CROSSING

Image courtesy National Weather Service

Prepare for extreme weather beginning this evening and lasting through Tuesday morning's rush hour commute.

Photo courtesy Andrew Magill, flickr.com/amagill

Texas Gets a Low Grade in Corruption Protection

Image courtesy National Weather Service

We know the old adage about Texas weather: If you don't like it, just wait five minutes. 

But yesterday's unseasonably high February temperatures still came as a surprise to many Austinites, and more warmth is on the way today. 

The National Weather Service says the regional warming streak will continue. It predicts "partly sunny and unseasonably warm" weather and says "highs will be in the 80s" today. "Normal high temperatures for this time of year are generally in the 60s," the NWS notes. 

That said, today’s heat won’t last. NWS forecasts a cold front hitting the Hill Country this evening, with lows in the 40s and a cool, mild weekend. Guess there’s something to that old adage after all. 

Photo by Tim Marshall, www.srh.noaa.gov

One hundred tornadoes may sound like a lot. But according to the Insurance Council of Texas (ICOT), that’s actually below average.

ICOT says that Texas’s 2011 tornado count – an even 100 – is less than the state’s yearly average of 135. Still, the 2011 number was high enough to rank Texas as having the fourth most tornadoes in the U.S., trailing Alabama with 146 twisters (accompanied by 242 fatalities), Oklahoma with 118 (32 fatalities), and Tennessee with 102 (14 fatalities). ICOT's statement comes in the midst of Severe Weather Week, as decreed by Gov. Rick Perry. 

The Texas twisters created no fatalities, basically proving the exception to the rule in a year of violent weather. In a press release, ICOT quotes Greg Carbon with the Norman, Oklahoma office of the Storm Prediction Center as saying “More than a dozen states recorded tornado fatalities in 2011, including Massachusetts that had three people killed from a rare tornado.”

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