While New Orleans flooded, Texas burned.
It was like adding insult to injury: not only did Tropical Storm Lee fail to bring Texas the rain it so desperately needs, but it whipped up wildfires that have killed at least two people and destroyed at least 300 homes, and show no signs of abating.
The Texas Forest Service confirmed 63 separate wildfires, 22 of them large. The two casualties were a 20-year-old woman and her 18-month-old daughter living in a mobile home in the northeastern part of the state.
Texas is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in its history. The parched ground creates an automatic risk of fires, and the winds from Tropical Storm Lee, though nowhere near hurricane strength, fanned the flames and drove them quickly across huge areas.
A Forest Service official, Justice Jones, told Reuters that firefighters were struggling to deploy enough resources to all of the fires that are burning at once. We have so many fires on the books right now that any new fires are going to tax our firefighting resources, Jones said.
We've completely depleted our resources, another official, Melanie Spradling, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. We're on every fire we can possibly handle and then some.
Officials have put into place a number of emergency measures to avoid new fires, including banning or sharply limiting outdoor fires, including barbecues, which many Texans had planned to hold for Labor Day.
Gov. Rick Perry, who had been away on the presidential campaign trail, said he would leave South Carolina -- where he was supposed to take part in a televised round-table debate with the other Republican primary candidates -- and return to Texas on Monday to manage the response to the wildfires.
Gov. Perry's first priority is to the people of Texas during this natural disaster, his campaign said in a statement released Monday. The governor is in close communication with emergency operations officials regarding fires in Texas, including discussions with emergency management leaders over the weekend and this morning.
By all measures, it has been a perfect storm for Texas. The unrelenting heat it has experienced for months has dried out everything and created ideal conditions for fires to start. A cooler front finally came on Monday, but that only served to decrease humidity and exacerbate the fires. Tropical Storm Lee passed tantalizingly close by but didn't bring rain west of Louisiana; all it brought was enough wind to fan the flames.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the vast majority of the state is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions -- the worst possible categories. Rainfall is 25 inches below normal levels in some areas, and reservoirs are less than 70 percent full.