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Forecasters for the National Weather Service are anticipating a more active hurricane season this year because of record-warm ocean surface temperatures, the Texas Tribune reported.
Hurricane season runs through the end of November. The Climate Prediction Center now predicts six to 11 hurricanes this season in the Atlantic Ocean, with as many as five of those being major hurricanes. The new projection is considerably higher than the one released in May just before hurricane season commenced.
Bradley Brokamp, an NWS meteorologist in Galveston, said the higher prediction is the result of the higher sea surface temperatures.
“The name of the game this season seems to be the heat because it’s been quite exceptional,” Brokamp told the Tribune.
Another NWS meteorologist, Jeff Lutze, based in Corpus Christi, said the higher probability of Atlantic hurricanes increases the likelihood of a storm striking Southeast Texas.
“The big question mark is whether or not we’ll get the upper air pattern to allow the storms to get this far into the Gulf of Mexico,” Lutz said. Some of the most damaging hurricanes to hit Texas in recent years came in August or September.
Wildfire danger continues to increase
Continued hot, dry weather has increased the number of wildfires, prompting the Texas A&M Forest Service to raise the State Wildfire Preparedness to Level 4, the second-highest level, in order to ensure resources are available to fight first breaking out across the state.
“Areas with high potential for wildfires include the Cross Timbers, Rolling Plains, Eastern/Western Hill Country where oak/juniper fuel is present and for the Western Pineywoods, as well as Central and Southeast Texas where pine fuel is present,” the service said.
As of Sunday, there were seven active fires, the largest being the Hawkeye Fire in Wichita County, consisting of 2,150 acres, which was 50% contained, and the Burnet 109 Fire, also in Wichita County, consisting of 2,126 acres, which was 75% contained.
Gov. Greg Abbott last Friday declared a wildfire disaster declaration in nearly 200 Texas counties, while burn bans are now in place in 181 counties.
July was hotter and drier than norm for most of the state, according to Mark Wentzel, a hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board, with 49% of the state now in drought, up 25 percentage points since the end of June.
Abbott signs largest property tax cut in state history
Abbott last week ceremonially signed legislation that — if voters approve it in November as expected — will provide what he is calling the largest property tax cut in Texas history. The $18 billion reduction raises the homestead exemption to $100,000 and provides other tax-reduction measures.
Voters will decide its fate as one of 14 proposed constitutional amendments in November. The measure is widely expected to pass, as do most measures to reduce taxes when placed on the ballot.
“As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas—and now that includes property tax relief,” House Speaker Phelan said at the ceremony.