Really heating up

In Arkansas, it seems as if  everything is early this year. Corn planting began in February. The first strawberries, blackberries and raspberries showed up almost a month early in May. All of the row crops are growing two to three weeks ahead of the norm and in some cases, the (irrigated) crops reached key maturity stages so early there was no precedent.

The latest thing to come early is August. August actually showed up the last week of June and September is making a play now that it’s July.  How do we know? Right now, the thermometer is showing triple digits and tree leaves are changing color and falling.  Mercifully, no Halloween decorations or mention of football has yet appeared.

However, Arkansas is in a serious drought. Exhausted fire crews are battling dozens of wildfires every day in 100-110-degree heat. Ranchers with burnt pastures are selling off cattle they can’t feed. Utilities are restricting water usage and Arkansans are being asked to refrain from running tractors, mowers or other vehicles with hot engines through dried up hay meadows and yards, be extra cautious with the barbecue grill, and hardest of all this Independence Day week — not set off fireworks.

Those who do long-term forecasting say the state and much of the southeast may see some relief if El Nino strengthens in the Pacific.

NO FIREWORKS — Burn bans have been enacted in 70 of the state’s 75 counties, and some cities have cancelled their annual July Fourth fireworks displays. This sign is outside one of the Salem, Ark., fire stations.
FALL IN JULY — In an effort to conserve water, trees are shutting down their leaves. The view across the Ouachitas shows a significant bit of browning during a time when the canopy should be lush and green.

Ironically, on June 24th, the National Weather Service said that through the first 23 days of the month, June in Little Rock was the coolest in years. The average highs were the coolest since 2009 and the average low was the coolest since 2003.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Colorado where wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes. More than a dozen other states are also battling wildfires.

NEAR COLORADO SPRINGS — Friend and co-worker Margaret, who moved to near Colorado Springs, sent back some terrifying photos, including this one.
ASHES — The heartbreaking aftermath of a finger of one of Colorado’s wildfires. (Photo sent by Margaret)

Fire season

Although wildfires can occur anytime, springtime and late summer/early fall are especially high risk due to drier air and dry vegetation. Throw in people who burn thatch in their lawns in spring or let grill embers get away from them and poof! wildland wildfires.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The smoke cloud below, from March 29, originated with a prescribed or controlled burn in Perry County — meaning the fire was set to eliminate material that could quickly give rise to a highly destructive fire.

Fire is nature’s way of renewing the forests in the Ouachitas. Pictures from the 1800s show vast burned out areas. If you live in a forested area, be sure to stay tuned to The National Weather Service also issues fire watches when conditions are right for wildland fires.

Prescribed burn in Perry County
The setting sun shines through smoke rising from a prescribed, or controlled, burn in Perry County on March 29.