Drought Predictions

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Believe it or not, 209 out of the 254 counties in the state are now under a burn ban. That's the most it's ever been in recent years, leaving many wondering when this winter drought will end. News 3 spoke with the experts and got their predictions.

The Texas Forest Service is looking to the sky for relief for this winter's drought and fire season. Director James Hull says ordinarily he could be sure fire season would end at the beginning of spring, but this year is different.

"Right now with the prolonged very severe drought, it's very difficult to predict because when it's dry it could be that the grass doesn't start growing again until much later in the year, if at all," said Hull.

The forest service is monitoring wild fires across Texas and keeping an eye on areas with high winds and low humidity, the key factors that drive fires and cause them to spread.

It will take more than a few sprinkles to get the drought under control. Precipitation levels in the Brazos Valley have been low since last April and there was little rain last fall.

"We had virtually no rain across any of Texas during the fall, so this winter fire season is going to be very, very challenging for us," said Hull.

Now many are hoping for some showers to come down soon.

"The best thing we can hope for right now would be 4 to 10 inches of rain over a long, long period of time. Ideally if we could have non-stop rain for a week to 2 weeks that would be a requirement to get us out of the drought."

But there is some relief in sight according to state climatologist, Dr John Neilson-Gammon at Texas A&M.

"Starting around this Sunday we could see a series of storms coming through one every few days and that would help tremendously. We'll need that weather pattern to hold for a few weeks," said Neilson-Gammon.

Brazos County commissioners extended the disaster declaration Tuesday. The declaration along with the burn ban will stay in effect through March 6th. But commissioners could lift the ban earlier if conditions change. The burn ban includes no outside burning of any kind.