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Despite drizzle, burn ban still probable

By by Peggy Jones pljones@news-journal.com
July 11, 2013 at 10 p.m.


Despite Thursday's afternoon showers, Gregg County residents could soon find themselves under a burn ban.

The spotty sprinkle that accompanied a weak cold front was too little too late to forestall what appears to be an inevitable ban on outdoor burning as the county creeps close to the threshold.

"We're at 668 (on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index)," Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said Thursday. "In the event we start having a lot of grass fires unexpectedly, we would probably clear (a ban) and not wait on the seven mark. We are in a watch-the-measurement mode."

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) is used to determine forest fire potential, in which 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions.

An index of 700 is the general threshold for counties to issue burn bans, Stoudt said.

The nearest counties under burn bans Thursday were Houston and Henderson counties, west and southwest of Tyler.

The National Weather Service in Shreveport reported Thursday that Longview is 7.78 inches below normal precipitation this year at East Texas Regional Airport, where the last measurable rainfall was recorded June 17.

"We need timely rainfall," said NWS meteorologist C.S. Ross. "It doesn't look like we're going to get it."

A marked increase in water usage by city of Longview customers testifies to the dryness.

Data supplied Thursday by the city shows residents used 34 percent more water in June than the month before; representing almost 57 million more gallons of water used than during an average June.

The Longview public works department sold about $143,000 more in water this past month than in the average June, according to Public Works Director Keith Bonds. The vast majority of that water went to lawn care.

"We have plenty of water," Bonds said. "We are nowhere near requiring people to conserve."

He said Longview draws water from Lake Cherokee, Lake O' the Pines and Lake Fork as well as the Sabine River.

Gregg County Fire Marshal Chad Hogue urged caution in any outside burning, even though there is no ban.

"Definitely be safe. Don't leave fires unattended. Don't burn in tall grass. Have a water source available to extinguish a fire and make sure the fire is extinguished."

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