OPINION COLUMNS

Survive spring in Wise County

By David Talley | Published Saturday, March 25, 2017
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As we roll into spring this week, it’s important to stay aware of the safety issues North Texans are likely to face in the coming season.

David Talley

David Talley

The past two springs have been marked by exceptionally wet weather, which has led to flooding and road closures. While “turn around, don’t drown” has likely become clich after two years, it’s still a poignant reminder of the danger of deep, fast-moving water. Last April, a family in Bridgeport was stranded in their home due to rising creek water. While they weren’t in immediate danger, had a medical emergency occurred, the family would have been stranded without help. A Texas game warden and Bridgeport firefighters helped free them.

A few days earlier, a driver bypassed barricades and attempted to cross a low area near the closed U.S. 380 bridge over Lake Bridgeport, only to have his pickup swept away. For several days, his antennae was the only thing sticking above water, serving as a lasting reminder of what not to do. The Texas Department of Insurance offered the following tips for driving in wet weather:

  • Rainy and foggy conditions can make pedestrians, animals or road debris more difficult to see. Slow down when driving in inclement weather.
  • Replace old, brittle wiper blades beforehand.
  • Maintain proper following distance.
  • Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible to others.
  • Be aware of hydroplaning and the factors that contribute to it.

A mostly unseen impact of the weather is the changes it creates in snake habitats. More rain means improved coverage and more food sources for reptiles, Jennifer Barrow, a Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist in Decatur, said in an August 2015 interview.

“The rain that we’ve had currently just moves them around,” she said. “But the last couple of years we’ve had good years of rainfall. The good conditions that we’ve had increases food sources, so they may move around a little bit more seeking that food source.”

But please don’t shoot every snake you see. Some, like the Timber Rattler, are state-protected species. It’s also important to remember these snakes, even the venomous ones, are a vital part of our ecosystem. If they were gone, their food sources, including rats and other pests, would swell massively in unchecked population. The increase in snake activity is just nature’s way of offsetting the growth.

Coupled with the extra rain, heavy winds can set the stage for high fire danger in Wise County. The increased foliage from wet weather is quick to dry and presents even bigger problems for local fire departments. We’re currently under an amended burn ban, so watch for approved burning days from the Wise County Sheriff’s office or call fire marshal’s office at 940-627-5870 for information.

As the Greenwood-Slidell Volunteer Fire Department wrote in a Facebook post, “Yes, we know it rained. It does not make the dead grass green. It makes the grass fires we respond to muddy and our trucks get stuck.”

It’s not hard. If you respect the sacrifices volunteer firefighters make, respect the rules local fire authorities put in place to keep us and them safe.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter and covers more disasters than he’d like.

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