A dangerous mix of high winds, dry air and plenty of vegetation make the region vulnerable to errant sparks or flames that could grow into brush fires.
Austin Fire Department crews have already responded to multiple brush fires this week.
Firefighters on Tuesday afternoon tackled blazes in wooded areas across the city: One in North Austin near Braker Lane and Stonelake Boulevard in North Austin; and two in Northeast Austin, near McCallen Pass and Canyon Ridge Drive, and near Tech Ridge Boulevard and Interstate 35.
More severe weather: Damage reported from tornadoes in Elgin, Round Rock
Later that day, fire crews put out a half-acre brush fire in woods behind the 12200 block of North Lamar Boulevard.
The Austin metro area — Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties — and the neighboring Hill Country counties west of the I-35 corridor were under a red flag warning most of the day Wednesday.
“A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly,” the National Weather Service said in a bulletin, adding that a persistent “combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.”
In more practical terms, Austin Fire officials said that means you should avoid setting outdoor fires, including barbecue grilling; avoid creating sparks by mowing or chain dragging; and don’t park on dry grass or toss cigarettes out car windows.
Despite a cold front that passed through Central Texas early Wednesday that inspired rain-making thunderstorms, the drought-stricken Hill Country got moisture but likely not enough to change its parched status, the National Weather Service said.
As of Wednesday, about 95.7% of the state is experiencing some level of drought, according to U.S. Drought Monitor data.
In Central Texas, only a sliver of rural land from the Travis-Bastrop county line northeast to Milam County remains drought-free.
A swath of the Hill Country west of Austin continues to be in extreme drought, the second-highest level on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s scale. The affected area includes most of Burnet and Blanco counties and the eastern portions of Llano and Gillespie counties. Extreme drought can be typified by cracked soil, an increased risk of wildfires and low reservoir levels.
As many as 148 of the state’s 254 counties are under an outdoor burn ban, including Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop and Caldwell counties.