Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Black Skies Over Texas

From treehuggers.com. Picture courtesy of DVIDSHUB via Flickr/CC
Yesterday, Texas made the world news. I was driving down to San Antonio listening to NPR's BBC World Service when I heard, along with the rest of the world, what I already knew: that parts of Texas are burning.

I had read that morning in the paper that parts of Bastrop and a little annex of Austin called Pflugerville had been burning since the high winds started up Saturday morning. As of yesterday, more than three hundred homes had burned in Bastrop and several more had sprung up in Cedar Park (Austin) and Pflugerville. People all over the city had reported seeing a wall of smoke coming from the South as over 300 homes were claimed overnight.

Right now, as I sit in the Starbucks at Parmer and Highway 1 in Austin--nursing a sore throat and wondering what to do--I can see a column of smoke coming from a fire that erupted just south of us, close to Highway 360 and Austin Community College. A student from the college getting a coffee confirmed the fire's location. Fire trucks continue to drive by in a continuous stream. Five have come by since I've been sitting here.

Oddly enough, many people are spreading word about the fires by word of mouth. Another student said that business proceeds as usual at the community college until further notice. Facebook has also been jumping with people posting images and sending prayers out to family and friends in the area. Local radio stations encourage people to heed evacuation warnings. The Texas Renaissance Fair in Magnolia has been keeping up a steady stream of information via Facebook and Twitter, since the fires seem to be affecting the area closes to the fair grounds, set to open October 8th, provided they are not caught in the blaze. The Starbucks on Parmer and Mopac (Highway 1) has begun collecting canned food and non-perishables to donate to the families affected by the blaze that has been burning nearly out of control since Saturday

The fires are the result of high winds from a cool-front as well as severe drought. Texas summers are usually stifling, but the state is suffering one of the worst droughts on record. According to the Washington Post, 81 percent of Texas is in the grips of a severe drought. The Post also reports that since the fires rage so close to home, Texas Governer Rick Perry has decided to put the campaign trail on hiatus, returning to the capitol to coordinate the relief effort.

According to ABC News, more than 852 homes have been destroyed as the fires rage across Texas. For many people in Austin and the rest of the state, the day goes by as usual, "with all of its comings and goings".   But was we sit outside, enjoying the relatively cool 83 degrees--relative to the 110 degree weather of last week--a pall hangs over the weirdest city in the country as black smoke curls towards the sky to the South.

ABC News is reporting at http://abcnews.go.com/US/texas-wildfires-852-homes-lost-48-hours/story?id=14454307

A report from this morning can be heard over NPR at npr.org.

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