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August 24, 2013

Drought approaching extreme levels

GREENVILLE — A ban on outdoor burning remains in place for Hunt County, as the county remains locked in the grip of a severe drought with almost no chance of substantial rainfall in the forecast.

Burn bans are also in place in two neighboring counties while cities across North Texas, including Greenville, are mandating restrictions on water usage.

The water level on Lake Tawakoni is only about five feet higher than its lowest level ever recorded.

The latest readings for the United States Drought Monitor indicate all of Hunt County remains under a severe drought, while other reports reveal that some locations in the county are in stages of extreme 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 559 to 726 with an average across the county of 677.

Hunt County is under a ban on outdoor burning. 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.

A total of 130 counties across Texas were listed under burn bans Friday. Kaufman and Rockwall counties were also under bans on outdoor burning.

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 429.77 feet Friday afternoon, down more than seven feet from the lake’s pool elevation of 437.5 feet and approaching the all-time lowest level seen on reservoir — 424.9 feet — which was recorded on Dec. 29, 2006.

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