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Fire Alert Issued as Drought Conditions Worsen


UPDATED 10/11/16

Above normal temperatures have combined with the below normal rainfall to worsen drought conditions across Central Alabama. These conditions have made it a very favorable risk for the occurrence of wildfires. Just this week, the Alabama Forestry Commission has upgraded the Fire Danger Warning, issuing a Fire Alert for 46 counties in north Alabama effective immediately due to the very dry conditions.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that drought conditions have worsened during the past two weeks. As of October 4th, 2016, areas of Central Alabama are in a moderate drought to severe drought, with some locations in an extreme drought.  Rainfall deficits of 5-15 inches for the year are now being reported in most areas of Central Alabama. Soil moistures are running well below normal for this time of the year across most sections of Central Alabama with the greatest deficits in the eastern sections.

According to AFC fire officials, the Fire Alert was issued because of the current drought situation, continued lack of precipitation, high probability of fuel ignition, and shortage of available firefighting manpower and resources. With this extremely dry weather, conditions are such that any fire can quickly spread out of control, not only resulting in damage to our forests but also threatening and destroying homes. Over the last seven days, 307 wildfires have occurred across Alabama burning approximately 3,698 acres.

The fire danger warning is for 46 Alabama counties and includes: Autauga, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Lowndes, Macon, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Russell, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, and Winston.

This Fire Alert will remain in effect until rescinded by the State Forester, at which time conditions will have changed sufficiently to reduce the occurrence and frequency of wildfires. The Commission is urging everyone to exercise all necessary safety precautions when doing any type of outdoor burning, and to call the Alabama Forestry Commission to obtain a burn permit. While under the Fire Alert, permits for outdoor burning in these counties will be restricted and issued on an individual basis.

Some safety tips during dry weather conditions to prevent wildfires are:

  • Comply with all local laws and regulations including burn bans.
  • Check the weather. Do not start outdoor fires during windy conditions and low humidity.
  • Avoid burning household trash, leaves, or brush piles.
  • Keep campfires contained and completely extinguish it with water and dirt before leaving the campsite.
  • Never leave a gas grill or charcoal grill unattended.
  • Never throw a lighted cigarette out of the window of a vehicle.
  • Avoid driving and parking a vehicle on dry vegetation.

The drought conditions are also already having an impact on the landscape. In addition to the risk of wildfires, the latest USDA reports indicate that the drought conditions are continuing to harm many crops across the area. Many pastures are reported as burned up, with some cattle producers already having to feed hay to their stocks. The dry weather is also impacting late soybean crops that are trying to fill out. Many trees that normally have beautiful fall color are going dormant early and shedding brown leaves.  Some woodland trees and landscape plants are suffering and dying due to lack of moisture.

It seems every possible rain shower in the area has bypassed or fizzled out before reaching our area of Tallapoosa County, especially the Dadeville area.   With October traditionally being the driest month, an end to this pattern of dry conditions may not end any time soon.

Take Caution Against Lightning During Thunderstorms


With all the pop up thunderstorms we have been having lately, one has to be very cautious against one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena – lightning.  Summer is the peak time for outdoor activities and also happens to be the peak season for lightning. According to the NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods for deadly weather.

NOAA’s National Weather Service has discovered that 64 percent of lightning deaths since 2006 occurred while people were participating in leisure activities. The number one leisure activity was fishing followed by camping  and boating.  Between 2006 and 2012, 82 percent of people killed by lightning were male.

Let’s be careful and make sure that none of us have the unpleasant opportunity.  Be smart and follow these lighting safety tips:

  • Watch for environmental clues, such as increasing wind, flashes of lightning, sounds of thunder, darkening skies, and AM radio static.
  • Stay indoors. Don’t go outside unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay away from open doors, windows, and patios, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks and plug-in electrical appliances.
  • Unplug all unnecessary appliances BEFORE the storm approaches.
  • Don’t use plug-in electrical equipment like hair dryers, electric tooth brushes or electric razors during the storm.
  • Don’t use the telephone, especially corded ones, during the storm. Lightning may strike telephone lines outside.
  • Don’t take laundry off the clothesline.
  • Don’t work on fences, telephone or power lines, pipelines or structural steel fabrication.
  • Don’t use metal objects like fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
  • Don’t handle flammable materials in open containers
  • Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the ground are often struck by lightning.
  • Avoid water! Get out of boats and swimming pools and away from water.
  • Stay in your automobile if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection. The rubber tires DO NOT protect you, it’s the roof.
  • Seek shelter in buildings. If no buildings are available, your best protection is a cave, ditch, canyon or under head-high clumps of trees in open forest glades.
  • When there is no shelter, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, your best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
  • Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clothes lines, exposed sheds and any electrically conductive elevated objects.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stands on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and be sure to minimize your contact with the ground!

People struck by lightning receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned. However, they don’t have an electric charge and can be handled. Prompt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, cardiac massage and prolonged artificial respiration can revive a person who appears dead. If lightning strikes a group of people, treat those who appear dead first. Those with vital signs will probably recover without treatment. However, their burns and other injuries may require treatment. Except for impairment or loss of sight or hearing, recovery from lightning strikes is often complete.

Louder or more frequent thunder means lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, you are in danger. REMEMBER: If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning!!!

References: NOAA study finds fishing tops U.S. lightning death activities

‘Project Now’ relief effort


The deadly April 27, 2011 tornados that ripped through Alabama adversely impacted the Woodstock, Eoline and Piper communities in Bibb County.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Bibb County Extension Office was approached by the Leadership Bibb County 2011 participants to help with the ‘Project Now’ relief effort that benefitted tornado victims in Bibb and Tuscaloosa counties.

Bibb County Extension also assisted the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce with American Red Cross relief efforts to distribute clothes and Extension disaster recovery publications to those in need.  The county office stands ready to assist should disaster strike Bibb County again.