New satellite tracks region’s wildfires
When wildfires scorched more than 1 million acres in early March across parts of the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and Kansas, forecasters used a new weather satellite to see the infernos developing, almost in real time.
When a line of severe thunderstorms produced five tornadoes in the Houston area on Feb. 14, the same satellite could see lightning strikes intensifying inside the storms. Such information could be helpful the next time a strong line of storms fires up.
“This high-resolution data is going to give us a lot of insight into the severity of these storms,” said Tom Bradshaw, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Fort Worth, who added that lightning is one clue to the intensity of a storm.
The GOES 16 (short for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) was launched in November and sits more than 22,000 miles up.
The satellite is still in a testing phase and is not considered operational, but it is providing stunning images.
Wildfires show as black spots on the satellite’s infrared images. In remote areas, the satellite may detect them before anybody on the ground. The satellite should see fires of 50 acres or more, Bradshaw said.
“What we’re able to do now is detect fires pretty shortly after they start,” he said. “The characteristics of how fires show up on infrared satellite data are pretty distinct.”
For North Texas, the satellite could help with severe storms and large wildfires, such as the Possum Kingdom wildfire that charred 170,000 acres in Palo Pinto, Young and Stephens counties in 2011.
For its fifth year running, Austin-Travis County EMS has turned downtown Austin into its own mini-city during the South by Southwest music festival, setting up special stations and protocols to respond to emergencies in the festival’s most music-popping districts.
Between 3 p.m. Tuesday and 3 a.m. Saturday, medics responded to 147 incidents in the areas between First and Seventh Streets, Lavaca Street and Interstate 35, East Fifth and Sixth streets and the Rainey Street district. They received the most calls — 51 — on Friday night, which was St. Patrick’s Day and also the first weekend night of the music festival.
Most incidents were reported in the Sixth Street area, between Brazos Street and Interstate 35, data shows.
According to EMS Commander Mike Benavides, the downtown music districts were “geofenced,” meaning officials set up an electronic grid to automatically route calls from those areas to a special dispatcher.
It’s the fifth year EMS has used the special system.
Last year, there were 151 reported medical incidents during SXSW.
A teenager was seriously injured Saturday when she was partially thrown from her car and then pinned beneath it as it crashed down an embankment near McKinney Falls State Park.
Her injuries are not expected to be life-threatening, Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services spokesman Michael Benavides said. She was taken to the South Austin Medical Center for treatment.
Firefighters from across Kansas and Oklahoma battle a wildfire near Protection, Kansas, on March 6. Weather forecasters used a new weather satellite to watch this and other infernos in the region develop, almost in real time.