Texas, which is rapidly turning into just the sort of desert we were promised it would soon be, has already seen a year of record-breaking drought and out-of-control wildfires. Now the flames are threatening residential areas, even the state capital itself.
Kate Galbraith, reporter for the Texas Tribune, just noted on Twitter:
There is an intense smell of smoke outside our building in downtown Austin.
Residents of Austin and surrounding areas are packing hurricane-style "go bags" in case they have to flee in a hurry, abandoning homes no one ever thought would be threatened by anything worse than a hail storm.
Here's another account, this one directly from a member of my clan:
The prickly pear cacti are thin, like leaves, rather than puffed up like normal. Everything is either dormant or dead, so it literally explodes from the smallest spark. Squirrels and other wildlife have abandoned their babies because they cannot make milk for them. There are no sounds of cicadas, no mosquitoes, no fireflies. The snakes, roaches, ants, scorpions and spiders are invading houses in search of water.
Unfortunately, even with stepped-up control efforts, the residents of Texas are far from safe:
Problem is, the fires keep cropping up. 185+/- fires are currently burning all around the state. Every tree and blade of grass is crispy unless it has been deliberately watered. We started deep-watering the trees around our house, though Stage 2 drought restrictions are in effect so there's only so much we're legally allowed to do even with that effort. The next door neighbor abandoned their house so the grass is even deader right next to us… it scares me. I'm considering taking out a couple of bushes close to the house to increase our fire-break zone.
Part of the problem is that more people than ever are in harm’s way — ironically, in part because of Perry’s "Texas miracle." Job growth has meant record population increases in a state increasingly unable to support this many people, especially from a perspective of water use.
Meanwhile Perry's administration, no fan of meddlesome government even when it means putting out fires, has slashed fire department budgets by up to 75 percent this year.
Get Grist in your inbox