Low rainfall totals throughout Nueces County, along with continuing dry conditions, has led to the renewal of an outdoor burn ban.
The order, which was first approved in November and renewed at a Feb. 6 Nueces County Commissioners Court meeting, restricts outdoor burning activities, such as trash and brush burning, for unincorporated areas of the region over the next 90 days.
County officials have previously said that the western part of the county, which includes Robstown, has become increasingly dry, according to the Keetch Byram Drought Index. The drought index ranges from 0 to 800, where a drought index of 0 represents no moisture depletion, and an index of 800 represents absolutely dry conditions.
The KBDI is a tool which is used to determine forest fire potential and is based on a daily water balance, where a drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture and is expressed in hundredths of an inch of soil moisture depletion.
According to the National Weather Service, the county has only had 5.87 inches of total rainfall since January, 1.29 inches below its year-to-date average of 7.16 inches.
Tyner Little, executive assistant to the county judge, said last week the county was measuring 532 on the KBDI.
The ruling by county commissioners, while good for trash and brush burning, does not ban aerial fireworks. The county has until June 15 to decide whether or not to ban aerial fireworks ahead of the Fourth of July.
That may prove difficult, however, since the county was unable to do so before the New Year holiday. The state of Texas last year raised the benchmark counties must meet on the KBDI to 575. At the time county leaders first proposed an aerial fireworks ban, the county was at 562 on the KBDI.
The burn ban passed by the county only pertains to areas of the county outside any city limits. Areas like Banquete and Petronilla, however, also fall under the jurisdiction of the burn ban, county officials said. The ban will run through July, when county leaders will decide whether or not conditions warrant yet another extension.