Extreme Drought & Fire Danger.

Arkansas - summer of 2009, just after storms that  blew down trees and limbs along with disruption of electrical powerWe’ve had our share of weather over the years that we have lived in Arkansas – heavy rain, winds, tornado warnings, snow, heat waves, and a lot of ordinary pleasant days.  (The photo on the left is our yard in the summer of 2009, just after storms that  blew down trees and limbs along with disruption of electrical power.)

This year started out warm.  We had daffodils in January, which is quite unusual, and the whole year has been mostly warmer than normal, with a below normal dip in February and a nearly normal April.  Flowers bloomed and trees leafed out far earlier than normal.  Early spring looked like summer.

Along with the warmer than normal temperatures, we’ve had far less rain than is usual, though the year started out wet.   Our average rainfall is about 50 inches a year, which results in a lot of plant growth – normally.

Not this year. Precipitation has been negligible since the middle of March.  We normally mow at least once a week, with the frequency tapering off towards fall.  This year, we’ve not mowed since April. (The picture below is of the same area of the yard as the one above, just at a different angle.)

Arkansas 2012 -- Extreme Drought & Fire Danger.

The warmer than normal year has evolved into an extended heat wave – with highs often over 100°F – which has pushed our drier than normal conditions rapidly into extreme drought.  Trees are going into dormancy because of the lack of moisture, though dormancy may may not save some.  We have three flowering trees in distress that we would like to save – two dogwood and 1 redbud.

One of our three dogwoods (on the left, below) is doing well.  It’s closer to the house and has been getting water, where the others (on the right, below), further from the house, have not.

Arkansas 2012 -- Extreme Drought & Fire Danger.  Arkansas 2012 -- Extreme Drought & Fire Danger.

Arkansas 2012 -- Extreme Drought & Fire Danger.Today, I bought some 5-gallon plastic buckets and water hoses.  Two buckets were placed at the base of each tree we’re trying to save, with three small holes drilled into the bottom of each to provide a slow drain flow so that the water will have a chance to soak into the ground below the tree.  It took 200 feet of hose to run out to the farthest dogwood.

With the heat, drought and distressed, dry vegetation, the danger of fire is extreme. Fortunately, there seems to be a heightened awareness and appreciation of the conditions.  All but five counties in the state are under a burn ban.  Firework displays for the Fourth of July holiday were mostly canceled and use of fireworks by individuals has been banned in most of the state.  While firework stands have been open, I haven’t seen any doing any business.  Three people were arrested on felony charges in another part of the state after a field they were riding through caught fire from fireworks they were setting off – resulted in fire damage to buildings and vehicles.

A wildfire yesterday afternoon and evening ten miles southeast of us grew to over 500 acres.  The rural and town fire departments around here have mutual aid agreements and several departments responded to the fire as did the State Forestry Commission and National Forest Service.  Tanker trucks from somewhere delivered water to portable plastic “ponds” that the rural departments used for refilling their tanker trucks.  Arkansas Air National Guard planes were used to drop water.

Arkansas 2012 -- Extreme Drought & Fire Danger.

And, with the dry conditions, we also have an overabundance of grasshoppers.

2012 07 04 012 ed

There is a hint, though, of a possibility of some relief.  The forecast, after Sunday, currently is calling for highs in the 90s rather than the 100s and each day there is a probability of rain, less than 50% each day, grant you, but that’s better than a 0% chance of rain week after week like we’ve been having.

How’s your weather just past the halfway point of 2012?

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