HOUSTON - Smoke has been spotted in Galveston today, wafting all the way from coastal marsh areas in southern Jefferson County, south of Beaumont. Winds off the Gulf may push smoke from these large fires into the Houston metro region today and then periodically this week. (When this has happened in the past, local fire departments have been flooded with calls as residents often believe something in their neighborhood is burning.)
According to the National Weather Service in Houston, the fires are happening in the McFaddin Wildlife Refuge (west of Port Arthur). They spoke to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, who manages the area, and learned the fire is actually a series of grass fires -- and they're all out of control. Compounding the difficulty in assessing the situation, the terrain is inaccessible by vehicle due to a spongy, salt-marsh terrain. Helicopters will be used to scout the burn zone and formulate a strategy.
The affected area is clearly visible from space as a large, charred, black region with smoke extending northwestward. Considering parts of the Beaumont region received over 65" of rain during Hurricane Harvey, it's kind of amazing that fires can burn at all, much less potentially out of control. However, since Harvey, we've seen very little rain in southeast Texas. This has allowed the water to long-ago run off, and the land to dry out. Anyone in a suburban neighborhood can vouch that many lawns -- most common in the park spaces and medians -- are beginning to yellow and brown!
Rain this weekend should reduce our fire danger temporarily and may help stomp out these flames. Next week, two new cold fronts will blow through and dry out the air once again. This will increase our winds speeds and once again enhance our fire danger. 'Tis the season. Spring and fall are the Texas burn seasons.
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