Athens Review, Athens, Texas

July 16, 2013

Rain was good, but ...

Officials say much more is still need to improve drought

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The rains that came to Athens and Henderson County during the past few days have improved the drought situation, but more is needed.

After almost three weeks with no measurable precipitation, the skies opened up for Athens on July 11, dropping 1.27 inches of rain, according to the Remote Automated Weather Station at Athens Airport.

Three days later, on Sunday, Athens was drenched with another 1.83 inches. The two days’ rainfall totals were more than the city’s 30-year-average for July.

For the month, Athens’ 3.20 inches make it the rainiest July since 2007. Light to moderate showers were falling again on Tuesday afternoon.

Henderson County’s Keetch Byrum Index, which measures moisture in the soil, improved from the 588-range to the 435, near the middle of the 800-point scale.

The 14-day projection by the Texas Forest Service is 499. The Henderson County Commissioners Court instituted a 14-day burn ban on July 9, which is due to expire July 23, unless the court votes to extend it.

The moisture in the soil varies greatly within Henderson County, ranging from a maximum Keetch Byrum reading of 616 in the west to a much wetter 166 in the east.

On July 8,  the lack of rain resulted in the City of Athens initiating Stage 1 water restrictions, requesting customers to voluntarily conserve water and adhere to certain restrictions on certain water uses.

The goal was to decrease the use of water by 10 percent and ask the citizens to cease using water for non-essential purposes.

The guidelines for implementing Stage 1 of the plan require that the daily production of water exceeds 4.5 million gallons per day or the water surface elevation of Lake Athens drops to 436.90 feet.

On Tuesday, Lake Athens was 82.3-percent full, with a level of 436.94.  Stage 1 of the Plan may be rescinded when all criteria for activating the ban have ceased to exist for a period of seven consecutive days.

Also keeping an eye to the sky are those anticipating the opening of the Splash Pad at Kiwanis Park. If conditions are right, the Pad is set to open in August. If drought conditions restrict the use of water, the Pad’s supply could be on hold.

The National Weather Service’s long-range forecast calls several days with a 20 to 50-percent chance of rain within the next two weeks.

After that, we could see the onset of the dog days of summer, with 100-degree temperatures and sunshine.