I'm a longtime former resident of central Texas (Austin area), and I couldn't help but notice that it seems virtually nowhere in the news that major natural disaster is unfolding in my former state of residence today. This diary focuses on my former area of residence, which includes Travis County (Austin) and its surrounding metro area (Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, Caldwell, etc. counties), but the whole damned state is on fire this weekend and it seems like no one knows.
A number of my close friends who live in and around Austin have been evacuated due to fires ranging in size from a few acres in size to the massive 16000+ acre fire burning out of control in Bastrop County which has already burned over 300 homes and is completely uncontained, headed southwest toward neighboring counties. That fire front is 16 miles long and four miles wide.
Other fires around Austin are burning and have claimed at least 25 other homes west of the city near Lake Travis. Many more are threatened on the Travis/Hays county line, and other fires have broken out in Williamson County (Round Rock, Cedar Park, and other suburban Austin metro) to the north.
Folks, this just doesn't really happen in and around Austin very often. Austin, and Texas, are in the midst of their worst ever drought in over 150 years of records. Today was Austin's record 80th day of 100 degree heat this year. The previous record was 69 days from 1925, and in 2009, 68 days were recorded. The 30-year average for days of triple-digit heat in Austin is 12. 80...compared with 12. Worse, the region has had exceptionally rare rain in the past several months. This is their hottest summer of record, and it's the second "hottest summer" recorded in just the last 3 years (last record was only set in 2009).
Wanna scream about climate change? Here it is, bold face letters, right in Rick Perry's back yard. Increasingly hot and dry summers, almost year after year after year, over a decade running. That's a lengthening record of change, and it's ugly, and now if you refer to this map fire is raging across many counties of the state. This should be pointed out, and LOUDLY, to Governor GoodHair and his climate change denial team. This governor's action on climate amounts to praying for rain...and Texas has a rain of fire to deal with. Please trumpet that in other diaries.
The important thing right now, though, is that people in Texas, especially central Texas, need help. Please, please, please, if you are in Texas, stay safe, but if you're local to these fires please help these folks. Many are holed up in shelters, there's trouble finding places to hold people's pets, and a lot of folks are out of contact or not sure where to go. This is not an area that is accustomed to wildfires. I don't recall this kind of calamity in the decade and a half I lived in Texas.
Please use this post as a clearinghouse for additional news, where people can go to donate or volunteer to help, and any other helpful information. I'm just still shocked and trying to attend to people I know who are floored to be having to evacuate their homes because of wildfire.
21:54 PDT: I'd like to add a starter link to the Central Texas American Red Cross. I'm looking for other resources for the affected.
Also, for up-to-the-minute links and such, a search of Twitter by the hashtag #txfire is very handy.
Notable is this animated satellite image showing the appearance of the smoke plume from the Bastrop fire.
22:25 PDT: The watchful and resourceful Mogolori provides the following very helpful links: