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Tropical Storm Lee likely to worsen Texas' wildfire woes

September 2, 2011 |  2:26 pm

Texas Wildfire

Louisiana and Mississippi were bracing Friday for potentially devastating flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, even as firefighters in drought-stricken Texas were preparing for yet another setback in their efforts to quell the state’s rampaging wildfires.

That's because Texas, despite being near the storm’s path, probably will receive little, if any, rain from the storm.

Tropical Storm Lee is in a slow crawl toward Louisiana, where it's expected to inundate New Orleans with more than a foot of rain, said Matt Moreland, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

But nearly all the rain is expected to fall on the eastern edge of the storm, not in Texas.

Additionally, a cold front moving into Texas on Sunday is expected to clash with the warm tropical storm to the east and begin whipping up winds of 20 mph to 30 mph across the state. With low humidity and strong wind, the storm probably exacerbate the already dire drought and fire conditions in the state, Moreland told The Times.

“We’re very concerned about it making the fires worse across Texas,” he said.  “If it hadn’t formed, moisture would have spread to Texas; instead, it’s going to take the moisture out.”

For firefighters, that means recent progress in their latest bout with wildfires could be diminished, said Tom Berglund, a spokesman for the multi-agency Lone Star Incident Management Team.

“As you get deeper into Texas, the concern is the increased wind,” Berglund said. “It’s dry and getting drier.  Any moisture is welcomed, but winds are a real bad thing.”

An estimated 99% of the state is experiencing at least severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, with about 80% of the state in the worst, or "exceptional," drought stage.

Firefighters across the state on Friday battled 14 large fires that have burned about 20,600 acres, the Texas Forest Service said.

In Palo Pinto County, a wind-fueled wildfire near Possum Kingdom Lake that has burned more than 6,600 acres and destroyed nearly 40 homes was about 60% contained Friday, Berglund said.

Since January, more than 18,000 wildfires have broken out across Texas, charring about 3.4 million acres and destroying 660 homes.

ALSO:

Texas fires: 80% of state in 'exceptional' drought

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and President Obama to meet

Forecasters: Gulf system could be next billion-dollar disaster

--Stephen Ceasar

Photo:  A wildfire rages near a herd of longhorn cattle  on Sept. 1, 2011, at Graford, Texas.  Credit: Tom Pennington / Getty Images

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