Nueces County is one of the driest areas in the State of Texas, which has led county leaders to renew an outdoor burn ban that has been in effect for the past few months.
Tyner Little, of the commissioners court administration office of governmental affairs, said last week that the county as a whole was measuring 769 on the Keetch Byram Drought Index, a dangerously high level for the area. This is because 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 that 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.
As of Monday, that figure had jumped to 773, according to the Texas A&M Universty-College Station Web site for the KBDI.
"It is drier than I've ever seen it before in Nueces County," Little said, adding that the western part of the county has reached upwards of 795 on the KBDI.
Nearby counties, such as Kleberg, Jim Wells and San Patricio, all have KBDI ratings over 770, with the southern portion of Texas, from San Antonio to the Valley, shown as reaching between 700 to 800 on the scale.
Jeffrey Stapper, AgriLife Extension agent for Nueces County, said this dry season has been one of the worst in the county's history.
"I would certainly concur that this is one of the drier areas…in the state," Stapper said, adding that he has spoken to farmers who had planted grain sorghum crop, only to have the crop not grow and become a loss.
As a result, some have begun to use methods, such as deep tilling, in order to make sure that when rain does make an appearance, moisture will make its way deep into the soil and not just evaporate or run off the surface. Some farmers have even taken to planting sesame crop or sunflowers, which are drought tolerant, but even those require some water, Stapper said.
"They've got to have a little bit of moisture to do something," he said.
The outdoor burn ban lasts for 90 days and will expire in November. It restricts outdoor burning activities, such as trash and brush burning, for unincorporated areas of the region and will remain in effect, Little said.
The burn ban 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 have said. In November, county leaders will decide whether or not conditions warrant another extension. Until then, they are urging caution.
"We encourage (residents) to please adhere to this," County Judge Loyd Neal said. "This is something that is for the health, welfare and safety of every citizen of this county."