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Flames

This avatar was intended for talking about Burning Man stuff, but while the Burn was going on in Nevada, a different, less good sort of Burn was happening here in Texas.

This drought has been just awful. Graham and I have been watching the weather for six months now, hoping that today would be the day that something changes. Every now and then we'd get some false glimmer of hope: A 60% chance of rain would be in the ten day forecast. A cloud cluster would form on the radar for ten minutes.

At first, we didn't notice much. There was some rain in January, and there were a few more cold spells than we're used to in the winter. The spring was just beautiful, though. Gorgeous days outside, clear, cool, crisp. But there was no rain. That's unusual. I think it was in March that we started thinking that this wasn't good. But April and May, our usual monsoon season, were when we really started to worry. There wasn't any rain. None. 0.11 inch in April. A tenth of an inch more in May.

But, it was still pretty in May. Highs were in the 80s until the last week, and I don't think I turned on the A/C until my birthday.

June, though, was another story entirely, and it would set the stage for the rest of the summer. Temperatures hit 100 within the first few days of the month. And we had seven days over 100 in the month. With very little rain. We're used to the tropics bringing in a summer shower most days. We only had an inch for the whole month. We're used to highs around 95 and humidity around 80 percent. We maybe have one or two days over 100, and we bitch when we have too many days in a row over 95. I think the whole summer was over 95.

I thought things were subsiding in July. We had more rain then than the previous three months combined, and it cooled off a little. But we weren't at all any where meeting our normal rainfall, much less catching up to all that was missed. Somewhere in July we decided to sell the calves early. Usually we hold on to them until the fall, but beef prices were going up, and we didn't have much hay to feed all of them. Usually in the summer we have several cuttings of hay. This summer we've been feeding hay.

And then came August. I can't even begin to explain how miserable that month was. Every. Single. Day. (save one) was over 100 degrees. There was no rain. There was no respite. We hit 109 degrees ten days ago. That's Arizona weather. That's not Texas weather. It was insane. And it was even worse further inland. Austin was regularly getting 110 and such. I walked a few blocks in Austin in the late afternoon and nearly roasted. I've never seen that sort of heat before.

And of course, it was pretty obvious that things were bad. The first week of August, Graham and I were driving back to the ranch after he had a gig, and we had to be diverted off 290 because of a fire. We could see the smoke for miles ahead. It wasn't too far from where that big Bastrop fire is now.

Ponds all over the place are empty. We're lucky because we have a fairly big, deep lake on the property that we can use to irrigate a little, and the cows can use to drink from and cool off. The field in front of the house, though, is completely barren. It's dirt, now, because nothing will grow and it's better to have dirt nearby than dead grass that will burn. We cleared out brush close to the house, and we're irrigating the lawn and gardens like mad. Not because we want it to look nice, but because alive, green things burn less than dead, brown things.

And so last week, the weather forecast predicted an end. A disturbance was forming in the gulf at the exact same time the high pressure system that's been hovering over the state was leaving. This meant that there was a high probability that we'd get rain. Last Thursday to tomorrow was forecast as 60% chance of rain. And the temperatures were going to fall. It looked like an end was in sight. People were actually giddy. We'd all post the weather report on facebook and say "See, see! It's ending! It's ending!" They said we'd get six or seven inches of rain. They said it'd cool down.

But no. A tropical storm, then hurricane did form in the Gulf. But it headed east and hit a part of the country that didn't really need the rain. We got some of it too. The wind part. Lots and lots of wind part. A wind that fanned flames and kept fires oxygenated. And then a cold front blew through yesterday, with more wind.

And a state that is usually green and pretty turned from brown to black. We don't get this every year. We don't know how to deal with it. Even if our governor was the type to spend lots and lots and lots of money for the public, these aren't the sorts of resources that we generally need or have on hand. We deal with fires occasionally, but never at this level, never on this scale.

I've seen a lot of people scoffing at Perry, as if this were somehow his fault. I don't know how a weather pattern like this could possibly be predicted or prepared for. Certainly we've taken the steps we could at the ranch to minimize the risk, but we know that if a fire does hit our part of the county, there's not much we can do about it. I'm not particularly interested in this thing being politicized. I'd much rather he be a hypocrite for asking for federal funds than not get help for thousands of Texans to make some sort of political point. And quite honestly, there's not much else anyone can do at this point except pray for rain. I've been praying for rain my entire life. I'm a ninth generation Texas cattle rancher. It's what we do.

Is this global warming? I dunno. It's a data point. It's hard to draw conclusions from a single data point. Compare it to 1980 or 1953 or 1922, which are the other horrific droughts in Texas on record. From what I understand, they were similar in scope and duration. As the "Snowmageddon" from a few years ago wasn't demonstrative against global warming, I'm not certain that a drought was an argument for. I think it's yet another piece of information to be analyzed and studied by people much more educated than I am on matters related to climate. I am persuaded that global climate change exists and is probably man made. Don't attack me on that. I just don't like using anecdotal data, even if it's hot, stuffy, holy fuck are we going to make it, data.

I talked to David, our ranch manager, a few minutes ago. He was told to evacuate his place, because the Luther Hill fire was nearby. He rode it out and everything is ok now. Our place is about 17 miles from there; 50 from Bastrop, where the big fires are. Our ranch is fine, and David has been in regular contact with the president of our Volunteer Fire Department, who has the property next to ours. When he hung up with me, David was going to call the Red Cross to let them know that evacuated horses are more than welcome to hang at the ranch for a little while until their homes are safe.

And so, I look at the forecast, which has not a single drop of rain in the future. And I hope for maybe a hurricane or a depression or just some sort of moisture.

And I pray for rain.

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Comments

( 12 comments — Say something )
cz_unit
Sep. 6th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
And here I am complaining about a leaking roof....

I'm not sure what's up with the Texas thing. It might be climate change at work, one can deny it all day but that won't change the effects if it's true. And oddly enough more snow in MD would be an indicator, since normally it gets too cold to snow. Warm it up a bit, snow goes *THUD*

We shall see. I assume you guys have full water rights on your property, that's worth a lot.
rainbow
Sep. 6th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
*fierce hugs* *energy and vibes for gentle drenching rains*
fallconsmate
Sep. 6th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
My SIL lives in Baton Rouge, I emailed her and told her to stop being so selfish and send some of that rain this way! ...I wasn't really joking.
melusinehr
Sep. 6th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
I've been yelling at Lee on your behalf for the last week. I've got my fingers crossed for y'all.
tourogal
Sep. 6th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
"I've seen a lot of people scoffing at Perry, as if this were somehow his fault. I don't know how a weather pattern like this could possibly be predicted or prepared for. Certainly we've taken the steps we could at the ranch to minimize the risk, but we know that if a fire does hit our part of the county, there's not much we can do about it. I'm not particularly interested in this thing being politicized. I'd much rather he be a hypocrite for asking for federal funds than not get help for thousands of Texans to make some sort of political point. And quite honestly, there's not much else anyone can do at this point except pray for rain. I've been praying for rain my entire life. I'm a ninth generation Texas cattle rancher. It's what we do."

the french revolution started on the back of years of bad weather and drought on top of idiocy by the aristocracy and monarchy. i would glad give you all the rain we have had in the last 3 weeks.
momwolf
Sep. 7th, 2011 12:41 am (UTC)
As bad as it is where you guys are, believe me, its worse here. We didn't have as much natural ground water to begin with. I'm flat scared.
moppety
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)
I'm sorry, but your post just sticks in my craw.Trying to one-up a tragedy of this size?

That was the point. We have no ground water. None.

The fires are 5 miles away from my home. One wind shift and I'm done for. I've spent the last 36 hours saving livestock from burning to death, helping firefighters keep fighting, and still the fires are uncontrolled.

That scary enough?
texaslawchick
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
She's in Wimberly. It's as bad if not worse, there.
moppety
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
I am in pretty dire shape here too. Sincerely. Fire is literally hundreds of feet away from a large portion of my friends livelihoods. I have friends that have lost everything in the last 24 hours. I'm looking at possibly losing my home.

To have someone say that it's not that bad and minimize these losses and possible losses is a slap in my face.
texaslawchick
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:04 am (UTC)
But I was talking about the ranch, which has groundwater.
moppety
Sep. 7th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
I apologize. I thought this was a general drought related thing, not ranch specific.

I apologize again.
momwolf
Sep. 7th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC)
Sorry, was not going for a "one up". I am in the hill country right outside of Austin. I understand you and believe me, I am not trying to be insensitive.
( 12 comments — Say something )