The different weather conditions and a possible burn ban from continued overall dry conditions are among some of the topics that have made their way into the conversations of elected officials and emergency management coordinators in the past few days.
Stephen Johns, who is the City of Wharton’s Emergency Management coordinator, said fog is expected for a part of the weekend and the temperature is forecast to drop some.
“We are expected to have fog overnight and into the early daylight hours through Saturday (Jan. 18) when a cold front is expected,” Johnson said in an email from the city. “This should push the fog out
and we will return to cooler temperatures. The best chance of rain is during the day on Saturday which is 50%.”
He adds that rain accumulation is less than a quarter of an inch, but it will mean wet road conditions at times.
“No hazardous weather other than fog is expected through the weekend,” Johnson said.
The high temps could be in the upper 50s and low 60s and the lows in the upper 30s and high 40s this weekend.
Commissioners advised of KBDI level
Andy Kirkland, who is the coordinator for Wharton County Office of Emergency Management, often attends the two monthly Commissioners Court meetings and the Monday, Jan. 13 meeting was no exception.
He and Judge Phillip Spenrath brought up the Keetch-Byram Drought Index being 402 as of that day.
It means there was not burn ban this week, and the winds were at a level that outdoor burning was permissible.
Spenrath warned that is the KBDI level reaches 500 or more in the weeks ahead, the county would have to implement a ban.
Earlier this month on Monday, Jan. 5, the KBDI average value for Wharton County was 419 (262-540). The dry area was near the Lissie-Bonus-Elm Grove area, but a burn ban was not in effect
On Thursday, Jan. 2, the average KBDI value for the county was 422, ranging from 256 to 550, with no burn ban in effect.
January’s unsettling weather
On Thursday, Jan. 9 in the late afternoon, Wharton County had been under a substantial threat from severe weather that was forecast the following day and into Saturday morning. According to the National Weather Service high winds, tornados and large hail would be accompaning a squall line.
“We have not had severe thunderstorms in our area in a long time, so please review what actions to take if you experience severe weather,” Kirkland said in advance of that weekend.
WC was spared widespread damage and flooding although there was some rain and windy conditions for a storm that was moving fast up to 55 mph, giving little warning time.
There was a burn ban due to winds in excess of safe limits.
In advance of the storms, Gov. Greg Abbott had announced he placed numerous resources on standby and elevated the State Operations Center to Level III (increased readiness) from Level IV (normal conditions) as severe weather and tornadic activity was forecast to impact the eastern half of the state.
In this ideal hazardous conditions that are forecast, the Texas Division of Emergency Management places boats, helicopters, rescue teams, medical strike teams, additional law enforcement and volunteer organizations on standby across the region to ensure the state is ready to respond to any requests for assistance from local government officials.
“As severe weather approaches the state of Texas, resources have been placed on standby to assist local officials in the event they are needed,” Abbott said.
State agencies involved in the emergency response effort include the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service - Task Force One and Two, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Public Utility Commission, and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System.
If you must drive in foggy conditions, keep the following safety tips in mind:
• Slow down and allow extra time to reach your destination.
• Make your vehicle visible to others both ahead of you and behind you by using your low-beam headlights since this means your taillights will also be on. Use fog lights if you have them.
• Never use your high-beam lights. Using high beam lights causes glare, making it more difficult for you to see what’s ahead of you on the road.
• Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to account for sudden stops or changes in the traffic pattern.
• To ensure you are staying in the proper lane, follow the lines on the road with your eyes.
• In extremely dense fog where visibility is near zero, the best course of action is to first turn on your hazard lights, then simply pull into a safe location such as a parking lot of a local business and stop.
• If there is no parking lot or driveway to pull into, pull your vehicle off to the side of the road as far as possible. Once you come to a stop, turn off all lights except your hazard flashing lights, set the emergency brake, and take your foot off the brake pedal to be sure the tail lights are not illuminated so that other drivers don't mistakenly run into you.