By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square
Texans in some parts of the state are being urged to make evacuation plans as wildfires continue to spread.
“Texas faces elevated-to-critical fire weather conditions in the Texas Panhandle, South Plains, West Texas, border region, South Texas, Central Texas, and the coastal bend” Wednesday, the Texas A&M Forest Service reported.
Texans living in the areas of concern, identified in its latest wildfire map, “are encouraged to make an evacuation plan with multiple routes, prepare an emergency kit with supplies, heed guidance from local officials and monitor local news,” it says.
Texans can also track weather information and learn about weather preparedness at: http://Ready.gov/severe-weather.
While the primary areas of concern are the Panhandle, South Plains, and West Texas, the risk could shift to much of the southern half of the state, Gov. Greg Abbott warned.
Abbott also encouraged Texans in a tweet to continue “to monitor local weather reports, heed guidance from local officials, and take measures to protect life and property.”
“Today’s fire environment of critically dry to extremely dry fuels and critical fire weather will support moderate to high significant fire potential in South Texas, Western Hill Country, and eastern Trans Pecos,” Texas A&M Forest Service warned Wednesday.
The warning came after it had issued an Extreme Wildfire Danger Alert, warning of extremely critical fire weather conditions expected to be widespread in the High Plains and Rolling Plains regions including the Childress, Lubbock, Amarillo, Midland, Odessa, and Fort Stockton areas.
High winds, relative humidity, and dry fuels are creating dangerous fire conditions, it says.
The storms moving across the state on Wednesday have the potential for large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, and flash flooding.
In addition to these threats, the state is still responding to 10 active wildfires and complexes. The largest is the Eastland Complex, which has burned more than 54,513 acres and is now 90% contained. Another 35 fires are 100% contained, according to the map, and 16 fires are totally out.
There are currently 19 state agencies involved in the state’s wildfire response.
The forest service reports that more than 900 local and state firefighters are fighting fires, including 400 out-of-state firefighters. More than 200 firefighters from 70 different local fire departments are mobilized across the state through the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System. They’re using 65 fire engines and 35 aviation assets. Roughly 300 of the firefighters are forest service employees.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas is also reminding Texans to never approach or touch downed power lines, and to report downed lines or outages to local authorities and local utility officials.
The National Weather Service also has confirmed seven tornadoes hit south-central Texas in the Houston area on March 21 and 22.
Initially, five tornadoes touched down in the Houston area on March 21. An EF0 tornado landed in Snook, Burleson County, with another EF0 tornado hitting 4 miles NNE of Snook near the Burleson/Brazos county line, the weather service reported. EF0s have an estimated wind speed of 65 to 85mph.
An EF1 tornado landed seven miles east of Wixon Valley near the Brazos/Grimes county line west of Iola; and an EF1 tornado landed in Madisonville, in Madison County. It was on the ground for about two and a half miles for seven minutes, the weather service reported. EF1s have an estimated 86-110 mph winds.
An EF2 tornado hit Houston County, which was on the ground for 19 miles along Highway 21 before lifting a few miles north of Crockett for 20 minutes moving with a forward motion of around 50 mph, it also reported. EF2s have an estimated 111-135 mph winds.
The storm that produced these tornadoes then went on to produce additional tornadoes downstream in the Shreveport County Warning Area the next morning.
Several thunderstorms that passed through this region on March 22 produced two tornadoes: an EF1 tornado hit near Bealsey in Fort Bend County and an EF0 tornado near Danbury.
The tornadoes caused significant damage to homes, businesses, and vegetation. Fourteen people were injured, including 10 from the Houston County tornado and four from the Beasley tornado, the weather service reportsed.
Texans who’ve sustained damage caused by wildfires or tornadoes are encouraged to report damage through the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool (iSTAT).