Recent rains across North Texas have pulled Ellis County back from the precipice of major drought — and the burn bans that go with it.
While the area is in no danger of becoming a tropical forest anytime soon, neither is it a tinderbox at the moment. That’s a major relief for county emergency management officials who were seeing dry conditions get drier just a month ago.
The newest Texas Water Development Board drought map brought lots of good news for the county and for the state in general, as indices retreated and more and more local areas recorded improvement.
Although Ellis County remained divided between “abnormally dry” conditions in the western half of the county and “moderate drought” in the east, last week’s significant rainfall helped immensely in the meantime, and another round of precipitation — some of it possibly wintry — was expected on Wednesday.
“The points are coming down on the drought index,” Ellis County fire marshal Tim Birdwell told the Commissioners’ Court last week. “We still are under a slight drought index, but the numbers continue to drop. Compared to Jan. 13, they’ve dropped 20 points.”
The Ellis County fire marshal’s office uses the Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which is calculated daily and ranges from zero to 800. A reading of zero represents no moisture depletion, and 800 represents entirely dry conditions.
As of Monday, the drought index for Ellis County stood at about 200, according to the U.S. Forestry Service Wildland Fire Assessment System. That’s about half the figure from Jan. 5, which was the peak of the recent dry spell.
Birdwell had told commissioners in a previous meeting that his office will request a burn ban when the KBDI reaches 600. In winter, because of all the dormant vegetation, a burn ban may be needed when the index is as low as 500.