November 13, 2023

Some areas in Mississippi still too dry to lift burn ban, officials say

Therese Apel

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index in Mississippi as of Monday, Nov. 12.

Even with the rain over the last few days and in the forecast, some areas of Mississippi are still too dry to lift their burn bans.

Others will be lifting burn bans shortly.

David Cox, the lead meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says since the rain started over the weekend, most parts of central Mississippi have gotten between a half-inch to an inch of rain, with some areas receiving around an inch and a half.

“We’ve still got this drought going on, but with the expected rain it should start to alleviate that some,” Cox said.

That rain has been focused along the I-20 corridor for the last 72 hours, Cox said. Through Thursday, however, the area south of the Natchez Trace should see between 1-3 inches. That rain should start tonight and persist through Sunday.

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index is a measurement based on a daily water balance. The drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture and is measured in hundredths of an inch of soil moisture depletion. The index is based on a maximum storage capacity of eight assumed inches.

Officials say the KBDI index values are in the 600s and 700s as of Monday at noon for most of Mississippi. Standard interpretation of the KBDI is that for every 100 on the scale, an area needs 1 inch of rain.

As of the same time, 70 out of 82 counties were under the burn ban. Many have expiration dates, but many are until further notice.

“We haven’t had enough water to really make an impact on this drought, so please adhere to the burn ban,” said Warren County EOC Director John Elfer.

Even with damp vegetation, Elfer said the dryness we’ve had for the last five months leaves extremely hazardous conditions.

“It doesn’t take much to wind up with an overland fire that damages property and potentially injures and kills people,” Elfer said. “If you’ve got an errant fire, that causes a big problem.”

Unlike Madison, Rankin, and Hinds County, citizens in Warren County have generally respected the burn ban, Elfer said.

“I think people are being pretty responsible,” he said. “No tickets or citations have been issued. We’ve had a lot of inquiries, but no complaints.”

Some counties are expected to lift their burn bans in the wake of the current rain forecasts. Visit the Mississippi Forestry Commission’s website to keep up with your county’s movements as they pertain to the drought and the burn ban.

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