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Hernando high on drought index

Published:   |   Updated: April 28, 2013 at 01:44 PM

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Football teams strive to get in the red zone and push that last 20 yards for a touchdown.

Families celebrate special occasions by declaring a red-letter day.

But when it comes to the drought index, being in the red is not only undesirable but downright worrisome to fire safety officials who fear the outbreak of a brush fire at any time due to severe dryness.

Hernando County is only one of five counties in Florida to be in the red danger zone and the other counties are in the immediate vicinity, including Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Hernando County was in the 500 range Friday morning on the Keetch-Byram dryness index. The KBDI index goes as high as 800, which signifies desert conditions.

The higher the index, the greater chance for wildfires.

“It’s high, but we’ve got some rain projected for the weekend and we are keeping an eye on it daily,” County Fire Chief Mike Rampino said.

Rampino said even though there are no burn bans in effect, residents should remain cautious.

Since the first of this year until Friday, fire and rescue crews have responded to 10 brush fires, down from 15 the same period in 2012.

For all of 2012, there were 26 brush fires, said Steve Porter, communications manager for the sheriff’s office.

April is typically one of the driest months of the year.

Hernando — along with five other counties in the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s northern area — had 2.53 inches of rain from April 1-24. The average amount of rain for the month of April is 2.74 inches.

The aquifer levels are indicative of the light rainfall totals.

As of Friday, the aquifer was at minus 0.21 inches, compared to 0.07 the previous week. One year ago, it was minus 0.86 inches, according to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The aquifer is the underground layer of rock that holds water. The normal range for this area is anywhere between 0 and 3 feet.

Robert Garcia, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin said there is a 40 percent chance of rain Monday and Tuesday.

This is the time of year when the area transitions from cold fronts to rain, Garcia said.

“Eventually, we’ll see the light switch flip and we’ll see the rainy season,” Garcia said. “It’s not unusual to see dryness this time of year and it’s not unusual to see fires this time of year.”

The Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport has reported traces of rain in the last week or so but nothing substantial.

“We shouldn’t be more than a month away (from rainy season),” he said.

Denise Moloney, public information officer with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, said the deputies are aware it is dry outside and will be vigilant in watching for people disposing of lit cigarettes outside.

(352) 544-5290

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