East Texas supports drought disaster proclamation

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A renewal of the drought disaster proclamation by Governor Rick Perry will serve as a reminder one of the worst droughts on record hasn't gone away.

"We've had some recent rainfall in the past few weeks that has helped, but we're all a long way from out of difficulty from the drought," said George Wages, manager for Nacogdoches Farm Bureau.

All counties in the state are still plagued with extreme drought conditions.

"Our county was about fifteen inches behind just for this past year, past 12 months, and we've got a lot of catching up to do," said Wages.

No doubt, East Texas is still vulnerable to wildfires.

"You know with the winds blowing, with the cold fronts and everything it doesn't take very long for the top of the ground to dry back out," said Del Birdwell, Nacogdoches fire marshal. "And we're back into pretty good fire danger."

Fighting and recovering from wildfires is expensive. Texas Farm Bureau members granted more than $1.4 million to help volunteer fire departments in the fight.

"Through contributions and matching funds we were able to provide a $1,000 for each volunteer fire department in Nacogdoches county and there's 17 of them," said Wages.

Donations are limited in number and size. The proclamation allows municipalities to apply for state assistance. This is assuring as the drought is expected to last well into this year.

The City of Nacogdoches is reminding residents one more time stage two of its drought conservation plan will be in effect March 1st. Restrictions on landscape irrigation, outside water use and variable rates based on usage will begin. In addition, restaurants will serve water only if the customer requests it.

The National Weather Service says 2011 was Texas' driest year on record as well as its second hottest.  The agency said Friday the average rainfall for the drought-stricken state last year was 14.88 inches. The previous driest average total was in 1917 with 14.99 inches.

The weather service says 2011's average temperature was 67.2 degrees. Texas' warmest year on record was in 1921 with an average temperature of 67.5 degrees.

Last year Texas suffered its worst single-year drought, its largest agricultural losses and the hottest summer in U.S. History. From June through August, Texas averaged 86.8 degrees, beating out Oklahoma's 85.2 degrees in 1934.

The current drought started last fall and forecasters say it is expected to drag on at least through June.

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