Severe water restrictions and Palo Pinto evacuation order 19 APR 11

I drove thirty-six miles this afternoon along SH 919, US 180, SH 16 and there was fire and smoke, large plumes of newly-erupting fires and smoldering cedar trees emitting smoke across the highway like a fog.  I wish it was a fog.  Ashes fell out of the sky, the wind blew steadily from the north, a welcome change of sorts that turned serious for Palo Pinto, Texas.  Thirty-six miles I drove and saw this fearful landscape and that was only the southern perimeter of the Possum Kingdom-Palo Pinto Complex Fire.  Some of these areas are still burning from days ago.  Fire crews with red lights turning appeared all along the highway.  Game wardens entered ranches to warn inhabitants.  Farmers and ranchers unlatched their gates along the route to Palo Pinto to allow crews to enter.  TV crews and their satellite vans were set up — NBC, CBS, ABC and others.

Everywhere I looked on the thirty-six mile southern perimeter there were plumes of smoke and fire like miniature volcanoes in the gullies and along the hillsides.  I have traveled the same circuit for several days and the smoke still rises about the countryside.

I came home and found messages from our Co-op water company.

* * *

Our water Co-op, Barton Creek Water Cooperative, left two urgent messages one hour ago to stop using water except at a minimum.  The Possum Kingdom Fire Complex is currently draining the Gordon Water Supply Cooperative and they have terminated water connections for us on Barton Creek Water Cooperative.  We are ordered to restrict or terminate usage and haul water for our livestock.  We are to be conservative in usage at the very most.  Power poles have been destroyed in the fire and the electric company has cut off power to the Gordon Water Supply pumps.  Gordon is six miles north of us.

The outlook is grim if our area does get any rain and more water restrictions may occur.

Here on our place we have a large stock pond that is down in elevation, but has plenty of water for Star and other livestock.  I have offered to place several horses and cattle on our place since the stock tank is large.  I have a small well, but the water is not potable for animals and humans, but we may use it to water plants.

We have filled up our two bathtubs and collected water in pitchers, jars and crock pots.

The Co-op has just called — 8:55 p.m. — and said that the water restrictions will probably be temporary, but again stated to be conservative.

* * *

Late this afternoon, Palo Pinto, a town north of us some twenty-five miles, has been ordered to evacuate since the winds have shifted from the north.  A large jail is being emptied and prisoners transferred to other units.  The fire jumped the Brazos River and the fire crews have concentrated at Palo Pinto, the county seat of Palo Pinto County.

Before the cold front came through in late afternoon, my thermometer registered a high of 109 deg., but settled at 103 deg. for a couple of hours with a humidity at nine percent.

The winds have died down after dark and we are preparing for bed.  Weather forecasts tell that rain may fall tomorrow night — scattered showers, but we’ll take it.

* * *

Here are some photographs I took this afternoon at the SH 16 and US 180 intersections and a few other places as captioned.  With a click of your mouse you may enlarge and find the obligatory detail in these matters.

Sunset and smoke over Strawn, Texas

Dead broomweed from last season that is tinder for a spark. This field is on the road to Palo Pinto, Texas, along US 180.

A round-up of cattle in holding pen for transfer in case fire comes, on SH 16, north of Strawn.

Crews and trucks assembling for the dash to Palo Pinto, Texas. This is at the intersection of SH 16 and US 180. Possum Kingdom is eight miles away in the background.

Possum Kingdom Complex Fire, southside of lake.

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12 Comments

Filed under Wildfire

12 responses to “Severe water restrictions and Palo Pinto evacuation order 19 APR 11

  1. I sure do hope there will be some meaningful rain in those scattered showers! I know what a nightmare it is to fight fires in those temperatures and with those winds!

  2. Praying for rain for you.

  3. Jack,
    In January 2007 we had a bushfire go through here (foothills and mountain ranges in south east Australia) which burned out about 3 million hectares over a six or seven week period. We were totally surrounded by a fire that left nothing but charred tree trunks behind. All of this just to let you know we know what you’re going through and to wish you and your neighbours well.
    I have been following your blog since you linked to an article about photographer Michael Berman on the High Country News web site, and enjoy your laconic, everyday style. Sometimes I feel as if I’m actually walking around your place with you. Had a laugh about the diamond back on your porch – it’s a common occurrence here (red-bellied black snakes, not diamond backs).
    Good luck, will be thinking of you.
    Bob.

    • Bob,

      Thank you for sending us luck. We need the good luck for a change and I think we got some today with overcast skies and cooler temps.

      I am so sorry to hear of your fires. I followed them on TV back then, I believe, and was just stunned. This year it has been floods in your part of the world, I think.

      Thank you for your compliment on how I write my blog. That you say you feel like you are walking around with me on field surveys is a goal I always strive for when I write and photograph. I’ll try and keep the writing crisp and real and on spot. Thank you, Bob, and I hope your weather is good for you down there.

  4. Hello Jack!

    As a native Texan, transplanted in my teens to the North West (WA State and Idaho) our hearts go out to y’all there with the wildfires threatening your very existence.

    My late husband and I endured and lived through the 1994 North Central WA State fires. I don’t remember now, but many thousands of acres were destroyed along with homes and farms. Coverage of the fires was a nightly news event on National TV. There were several fires about us which merged and had us surrounded. We couldn’t have gotten out then even had we wanted to do so.

    We lived in Leavenworth (an Alpine Village) at the time. This is where the mountains came down to meet the city limits. Big mountains that were afire. The fire department told us to get out three different times, but hubby refused to go. I’m still here to testify we didn’t get driven out by the fire.

    Our beautiful village looked like a war camp for about 2 months. We had fire units responding from all over the U.S. – from as far away as Main and Florida. Then even as close as Canada. Washington State sent in the National Guard units. The Army also responded. All in their camouflage and vehicles. We had our property rented out to helicopter loggers when the fire started. They and their equipment was conscripted to help fight the fires.

    Water wasn’t a problem. We had the Wenatchee River that ran right through town. The helicopters simply dipped buckets full of water out of the river and dumped them on the blazes. Before the fires were out about us, the crystal clear, ice cold Wenatchee River was warm like bath water. Spoiled the run for many salmon and their eggs.

    The fires started in July, but not all of them were ever put out. They finally burned up into the pristine areas in the mountains and were extinguished by the fall rains or snows.

    I could write a book about those terrifying night when we sat out and watched the fires, not knowing from moment to moment if we were going to be burned out. Just reading about the Texas fires and writing this conjures up feelings I’d just as soon ignore. So will be closing with prayers for y’all there. God is in charge. Turn it all over to him.

    • Iona:

      Thank you for your very expressive comment. Your description sounds so terrifying. I’m sad to think that around here the fires may not be extinguished for a long time. I think you have the right stuff to survive in any situation. Thank you again for your comment and I know that readers will find your story riveting.

  5. Kittie Howard

    We saw the CBS and NBC coverage on tv last night that focused on Possum Kingdom. This is a horrible situation. TV coverage this a.m. showed a monster tornado in Missouri.

    Our hearts and prayers are with you and Brenda. I hope you don’t have to evacuate.

    • One wonders with all these weather events what is going on beneath the surface. I’m sure wildfire analysts can point to overdevelopment, lack of controlled burns, etc. That’s terrible about Missouri.

  6. My God, to have to suffer all of that and those temperatures on top of it. When all of this is settled down, maybe I can talk you about putting in some catchment tanks for roof water (sounds like you don’t have any now). I guess I shouldn’t read these posting in chronological order…perhaps things are much better by now. I hope.

    • Yes, I want to talk to you about it. I don’t have catchments now. Yes, things are better. I know your place is more environmentally friendly than mine, but I want to improve.

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