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August 17, 2013

Burn ban, severe drought still in place

The scattered showers and storms which crossed Hunt County this week were a nice change for August in Texas, as were the cooler temperatures during the past two days.

But the unusual summer weather did little to alleviate the county’s severe drought conditions. A ban on outdoor burning remains in effect and water use restrictions remain in place as the levels on area lakes continue to drop.

The latest readings for the United States Drought Monitor indicate all of Hunt County remains under a severe drought.

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index measures soil moisture. A reading of 800 is the highest on the scale, meaning that it would take eight or more inches of rainfall to bring the soil to saturation.

Friday afternoon, the county’s readings under the index ranged from 507 to 710 with an average across the county of 641.

Hunt County was placed under a ban on outdoor burning Monday, as County Judge John Horn signed a disaster declaration in the wake of drought conditions and several recent major fires.

The ban on outdoor burning will remain in effect until at least Monday morning, at which time the Commissioners Court will decide whether to renew the ban.

A special session of the Hunt County Commissioners Court has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday in the Auxiliary Courtroom, 2700 Johnson Street in Greenville.

Under the ban no outdoor burning is permitted in the unincorporated areas of the county, including the burning of household garbage. This order does not restrict the outdoor use of welding, cutting torches and other similar tools, provided a separate individual is present to observe for fires and sparks and to have some type of fire extinguisher present. The order does not prohibit outdoor cooking but it does restrict the cooking activities to an enclosed apparatus, designed for cooking purposes.

The North Texas Municipal Water District has implemented Stage 3 outdoor watering restrictions, which means residential and business customers served by the district are limited to landscape watering with sprinkler or irrigation systems once every seven days. Other restrictions apply, depending on the city.

The City of Greenville is currently under Stage 2 water restrictions. Landscape irrigation is limited to Sundays and Thursdays for customers with a street address ending in an even number and Saturdays and Wednesdays for customers with a street address ending in an odd number. Landscape irrigation is permitted at anytime with a hand-held hose, a faucet filled bucket or watering can of five gallons or less, or a drip irrigation system.

The level on Lake Tawakoni, from which the City of Greenville pumps water to help maintain the levels on the municipal reservoir system, was listed at 430.05 feet Friday afternoon, down more than seven feet from the lake’s pool elevation of 437.5 feet, but still above the all-time lowest level seen on reservoir — 424.9 feet — which was recorded on Dec. 29, 2006.

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