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Summer on track to be among Texas’ most extreme

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072723 heat

By Erin Douglas
The Texas Tribune

An unrelenting stretch of blistering days amid an ongoing heat wave has put this summer on track to be one of Texas’ most extreme, weather data shows.

Although June was only Texas’ 16th warmest on record by average temperature, according to the state climatologist, a long period of very hot days between mid-June and mid-July has made this summer one of the most intense in terms of extended high temperatures.

In June, a sample of 38 weather stations across the state recorded a temperature at or above 100 degrees 250 times — the fifth-greatest monthly total for that month in the past three decades, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of National Weather Service data. The average temperature for June was 82.2 degrees, which was 2.6 degrees above the 20th century average, according to data provided by the state climatologist.

Heat waves — and the record-breaking temperatures they bring — are becoming more common and severe due to climate change, scientists have found. In the past decade in Texas, there were 1,000 more days of record-breaking heat than in a normal decade, a Tribune analysis found.

“As we warm the atmosphere, the likelihood that we will have days over 100 degrees is higher,” said Sylvia Dee, a Rice University climate scientist. “The tails, or extremes, will be hotter.”

Still, this summer has yet to exceed last summer’s historic heat. Last year was Texas’ second-hottest summer on record, by average temperature. Climate change, combined with a severe drought and La Niña weather pattern made for hot days and nights. Much of the state got enough rain earlier this year that reduced or eliminated drought conditions across the state and provided some cooling.

“We could conceivably crack the top three [warmest summers] but would have a hard time beating the summer averages from last year,” said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist.

This year, an El Niño pattern has developed, meaning higher-than-average surface sea temperatures. In Texas, an El Niño pattern usually brings more moisture and a cooling effect with it. However, the length and duration of the heat wave this year has dominated the weather pattern instead.

The high-pressure weather system bearing down on the Southwest has made West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley particularly intolerable this summer.

In El Paso, it’s been more than a month since temperatures didn’t reach 100 degrees — the longest stretch of 100-degree heat ever in that area.

The previous record was set in 1994 with a 23-day long stretch of 100-degree heat, said Jason Grzywacz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in El Paso.

Though El Paso has not set very many all-time temperature records this year, it’s the relentlessness of the extreme heat that’s particularly notable this summer, Grzywacz said. Typically in El Paso, a monsoon pattern develops in early July that brings moisture, breaking up a heat wave, he said. But this year, the strength of the high-pressure system is pushing out any chance of rainy weather that could cool the area.

“We usually don’t get this string [of high-heat days] into mid-July,” he said. “But the high [pressure system] has just been sitting on the four corners [of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah], so the moisture isn’t being brought in like it normally would.”

There’s little relief in sight for West Texas: Nighttime temperatures have stayed in the 80s this summer, he said. Usually, El Paso’s summer nights dip down to at least the 70s.

“We’re running a good 6 to 12 degrees above normal [this summer], as far as low temperatures go,” Grzywacz said.

As climate change pushes temperatures up over time, average nighttime temperatures globally are warming faster than daytime temperatures, scientists have found.

In McAllen, the annual heat wave that smothers northern Mexico and its border with Texas — locals call it “La Canícula” — came earlier this year, said Barry Goldsmith, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Brownsville.

Since June 12, McAllen has recorded 30 days at or above 100 degrees, the second-longest such stretch since 1941, when recording began at that weather station. McAllen should soon break the all-time record of 31 triple-digit days, set in 1988.

“We’ve had full months of July be 100 [degrees] plus in McAllen,” Goldsmith said. “But what makes this year different is June.”

Goldsmith said the early and sudden onset of the heat wave is likely contributing to the spiking rates of emergency room visits in South Texas.

“Heat is a normal thing down here — don’t get me wrong, we are used to heat,” Goldsmith said. “But we had a sharp shift in the pattern. … We just flipped the switch.”

If the heat wave continues, McAllen and other parts of Texas could break all-time records.

“We are pretty convinced July in McAllen will [continue topping] 100 degrees,” Goldsmith said. “The question becomes August.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/07/18/texas-heat-summer-extreme-weather/.

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Texas posts record jobs, employment

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072720 jobs

Special to the EnterpriseTexas broke three records again with number of jobs, number employed, and the size of the state’s civilian labor force.

Total nonfarm employment increased by 31,100 positions over the month to reach a 21st consecutive series-high level at 13,944,600 jobs and achieved 28 consecutive months of growth. Since June 2022, Lone Star State employment grew by 542,500 positions—the largest annual increase in the nation.

Texas’ employment growth rate continued to outperform with 4.0 percent annual growth from June 2022 to June 2023 — outpacing any other state as well as the nation’s more modest 2.5 percent.

The Texas seasonally adjusted civilian labor force grew over the month by 30,500 people to reach 15,039,800 in June. The number of employed also reached a new record high at more than 14,429,900. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent.

“More than 350,000 people have joined the Texas workforce since June 2022, making the Lone Star State a national leader as the best place to work and to live,” said TWC Chairman Bryan Daniel. “As a resource for this growing job market, TWC is committed to provide a range of services for employers and job seekers alike.”

Private Education and Health Services added the most jobs of all the major industries at 11,900—closely followed by Construction with 11,000 positions. Manufacturing gained 6,100 jobs over the month. Texas’ annual employment growth through June 2023 was stronger than the national rate in all but one of the 11 industries, Leisure and Hospitality.

“Texas employers are helping Texas stay robust and growing as the state approaches the 14 million mark for nonfarm jobs,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Aaron Demerson. “From initiatives like the Texas Conference for Employers and programs like the Skills Development Fund, TWC will continue to encourage that forward drive by providing resources for our Texas employers that include the best employment law education information and the best customized training for current and future workers.”

The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) reached the lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a not seasonally adjusted rate of 2.6 percent in June, followed by Amarillo 3.3 percent, then Odessa at 3.4 percent. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington MSA had the second largest over-the-year increase in number of jobs in the nation, not seasonally adjusted. Meanwhile, Midland had the largest percentage increase, followed by Odessa with the second highest increase in the nation among all MSAs.

“Texas continues to expand the labor force with skilled workers, at more than 15 million strong, as we boost careers through opportunities with our apprenticeship, internship, and vocational rehabilitation programs,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Alberto Treviño III. “TWC and our 28 Workforce Solution Boards help Texans navigate employment services that include career exploration, support services, job fairs, and job training programs.”

Employment estimates released by TWC are produced in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. All estimates are subject to revision. To access this and more employment data, visit TexasLMI.com.

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Recording artist coming to Lufkin

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From Enterprise Staff

David Phelps, a multi-Dove and Grammy Award-winning recording artist, will bring his unmistakable sound to Lufkin Baptist Church in a concert at 6 p.m. July 22.

Once a childhood musical prodigy from Tomball, Phelps earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Baylor University. Since then, he has become a nationally celebrated vocalist, whose gifts and talents are matched by none. Perhaps best known as the powerful tenor for the multiple Grammy and Dove Award-winning Gaither Vocal Band, Phelps continues to constantly build on a career that has already been groundbreaking. Emerging as a leading voice in Christian music, Phelps has been winning the hearts of audiences all over the world for more than two decades. He has performed in numerous prestigious venues across the globe, including the White House, New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

This 2023 “After the Downbeat” tour stop featuring Phelps and his musical entourage will feature songs from more than a dozen multi-award winning recordings he has to his credit. His seemingly endless vocal range, which extends more than three octaves, coupled with his gift for communicating a song, moves audiences from all walks of life, crossing generational and stylistic barriers.

Any music lover, regardless of musical preference, will not want to miss this special evening of worship and celebration at First Baptist Church, located at 106 East Bremond in Lufkin. Event information may be obtained by visiting www.davidphelps.com or www.itickets.com or by calling 936-634-3386.

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Historic property tax legislation passes House

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From Enterprise Staff

Passage of a property tax relief package by the Texas House of Representatives Thursday is expected to deliver the largest property tax cut in Texas history.

“Property tax relief has been the number one priority for me and my constituents from day one of this legislative session. Members of both chambers have put in countless hours over the last seven months to produce the most sweeping and comprehensive property tax proposal in the history of our state, which will provide measurable relief to the homeowners and businesses alike,” Ashby said.

Highlights of the $18 billion tax cut legislation include:

•Over $12 billion to reduce the school property tax rate for all homeowners and commercial properties;

•Every homeowner with a homestead exemption (approximately 5.7 million homeowners) will see an increase from $40,000 to $100,000 on their homestead exemption;

•Non-homestead properties, valued at $5 million and under, including residential and commercial properties, will experience a 20% cap on appraised values as a 3-year pilot program; and

•Legislation will also include savings on the franchise tax for small businesses and create newly elected positions on local appraisal boards for counties with a population over 75,000.

“Though this property tax package took longer to finalize than anticipated, I believe the painstaking process of perfecting this historic victory for taxpayers reflects the legislature’s unwavering commitment to deliver real and meaningful property tax relief to the people of Texas. As a co-author for SB 2, SB 3, and HJR 2, I’m proud to have played a role in delivering the largest property tax cut in Texas history, and I remain committed to prioritizing policies that help further alleviate the burden property taxes place on Texas taxpayers,” Ashby said.

Ashby is in his sixth term as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. He is the Chair of the House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism while also serving on the House Committee on Transportation. He currently represents a six-county region that includes: Angelina, Houston, Polk, San Augustine, Trinity and Tyler counties.

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Texas State Parks among nation’s best

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From Enterprise Staff

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) along with the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration have selected Texas State Parks as a finalist for the 2023 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management.

“I’m proud to have the hard work of our Texas State Park staff recognized for building one of the best state park systems in the country,” Texas State Parks Director Rodney Franklin said. “It is an honor for Texas State Parks to be nationally recognized for our efforts to welcome all Texans and preserve the gems of Texas for all generations.”

Texas State Parks is competing against three other state park systems for the top award: Missouri State Parks, Ohio State Parks and Watercraft; and Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails. The winner will be announced in October at the NRPA conference in Dallas.

Founded in 1965, the Gold Medal Awards program honors communities in the United States that demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Applications are separated into seven classes, with five classes based on population, one class for armed forces recreation and one class, awarded on odd numbered years, for state park systems.

Agencies are judged on their ability to address the needs of those they serve through the collective energies of community members, staff and elected officials. Four finalists in each class are chosen to compete for grand honors each year. For more information concerning the Gold Medal Award program, visit https://aapra.org/National-Gold-Medal-Award.

“We are especially thrilled to receive this recognition during our centennial year,” Franklin said. “The fact that we were named a finalist among peer institutions across the country really highlights the progress we have made over the past century to fulfill then-Gov. Pat Neff’s vision of a Texas dotted with state parks ‘to be held in sacred trust by the state for the public good, now and forever.’”

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is partnering with TPWD and HEB to celebrate 100 years of Texas State Parks. HEB, the presenting sponsor of the celebration, has donated $1 million to help Texas State Parks engage all Texans in discovering and enjoying their state parks throughout the yearlong celebration.

For more information on the centennial celebration, including community events, the history of Texas State Parks and how to make a day visit or overnight reservation, visit the Texas State Parks 100 Years website at TexasStateParks.org/100years.

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