For the first time this year, Wharton County ordered a burn ban due to dry conditions. Unlike the outdoor burning notices that were implemented due to exceeding high winds during the winter months, this ban on outdoor burning is because conditions on the ground have become dry across a wide area of the county.
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, WC’s Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland said the ban would take effect at 12:01 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27.
Tuesday, the Keetch-Byram Drought Index value was 516. Two days before, it was 505 (320 wettest – 634 driest).
The 505 reading was what was discussed during the Commissioners Court meeting on Monday, Aug. 24.
Many times when there is a meeting of the commissioners court on the second and fourth Monday of the month, and the KBDI value, which is released every Sunday, exceeds 500, there is official discussion about it during a meeting.
Judge Phillip Spenrath said it is customary to enact the burn ban order a few days later on a Thursday to give local news outlets an opportunity to release the information to the public. Spenrath said it gives residents time to burn before it is banned.
The Journal-Spectator posted information about the potential for a burn ban on its Facebook the same day the meeting was held.
At the time of the commissioners court meeting, Spenrath said it depended on what tropical storms Marco and Laura would do in terms of precipitation. Marco was predicted to make landfall in Louisiana Tuesday, and Laura Thursday. If rain does fall and the KBDI value does fall below 500, the ban will be immediately discontinued.
Rain or no rain, the OEM was ordered to release information about the outdoor burn ban.
“If there is enough rain, Andy will call off the burn ban,” Spenrath said on Monday.
Kirkland said the KBDI value will be reviewed every Monday and changes in status will be distributed to all law enforcement, fire departments, county precinct officers and news outlets.