Burn ban possible, local officials warn

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It’s hot, nearly 100 degrees, but it feels hotter — with a heat index expected to exceed 105 today — and relief is not forecast until at least next week.

The National Weather Service is predicting a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms beginning Monday; until then, the forecast calls for highs to remain in the upper 90s. Heat advisories have been issued daily for nearly a week; one is in effect until 7 this evening.

Warren County fire coordinator Kelly Worthy said Tuesday he is considering pushing for a burn ban in Warren County, and Vicksburg Fire Chief Keith Rogers said this morning he expects a ban to be enacted in the city as well.

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“There could be one any day, if we see the need,” said Worthy.

Rogers said a ban in the city could be made independently at his recommendation or by the Mississippi Forestry Commission. Bans in Forrest, Lamar and Marion counties went into effect Tuesday.

“I think (a ban) is well on it’s way,” said Rogers, who noted such bans are put into place almost annually during the hottest and driest months. “The forestry commission is what we call the lead agency, but they do offer us a lot of latitude as far as making that call locally if we feel it’s necessary.”

The skies have been clear for weeks, but forecasters are hesitant to declare a drought in the area. Rainfall in Vicksburg thus far in June has ranged from just 0.59 inches at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport on U.S. 61 South to 0.8 inches at the Vicksburg Water Plant at the Port of Vicksburg, far lower than the monthly average to date of 2.44 inches.  

“We’ve been very dry for the last 60 days,” said NWS meteorologist Ed Agre. “It’s abnormally dry, but it’s not a drought.”

A 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms is forecast for the area Monday and Tuesday, and the chance is increased to 60 percent by Wednesday and Thursday. Highs are forecast to retreat back into the low 90s during the later part of next week.

On Tuesday, Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning issued a statewide burn ban. He said the ban came after requests from local fire departments at each of the parishes because of dry vegetation, lack of rainfall and fires reported in each parish.

Browning said fireworks use by private citizens, especially for July 4th, is not included in the ban because it is regulated by local parishes. Locally, Rogers said enforcing such a ban likely would prove impossible during a burn ban.


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com