You can't tell it's fall by the thermometer

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By Lisa King

 Thursday was the first day of fall, but you probably won’t need your sweater anytime soon.


Record high temperatures greeted autumn, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for the 82nd day this summer. Some forecasts had called for nearly 100 degrees on Thursday, but the high hit “only” 97, still a record for the date. And another record could be set today. The forecast high is 95. On top of that, National Weather Service Meteorologist Joe Sullivan said, a “red flag” warning issued by the NWS is an unusual occurrence in Kentucky. “You need to have three things to issue it – high temperatures, low humidity and high winds,” he said, adding that those conditions are more common in the Midwest than in Kentucky. “It’s very unusual to get these temperatures here in September,” he said. Grass fires Because of the hot, dry, breezy conditions, a searing grass fire emerged Wednesday afternoon at the Sanderlin Farm on Joyes Station Road, just west of Shelbyville. And those conditions made the fire large and extremely difficult to extinguish, said Captain Bobby Cravens of the Simpsonville Fire Department, which received assistance by the Shelby County Fire Department. Cravens said the fire, which rapidly spread out to encompass five acres, was started by a spark from farm equipment that a farmer was using to harvest corn. “The combine picks the corn and removes the kernels from the ear, so there was a lot of stalk material lying on the ground, which made a heavy fire load,” he said. “The wind was not in our favor. Hot spots kept jumping back up.” Fire Chief Walter Jones said they finally got the fire under control at about 4 p.m., and he reported that many other locations around the county have had grass fires this week. Shelby County Fire Chief Bobby Cowherd said Sunday evening, there were two grass fires within a couple of thousand feet from each other on U.S. 60. “They were both on the side of road, and could have been caused from somebody flipping a cigarette out the window or from a spark from something dragging on a vehicle,” he said.  He said there was also a fire in the East 60 district and also a fire occurred on Benson Pike. “Down near the lake, somebody had a camp fire and it caught a tree on fire,” he said.  Burn ban Cowherd added that  several counties, including Shelby, have enacted burn bans, because of extremely dry conditions. He said the burn ban prohibits any outdoor burning, except for cooking in a grill,  “We even had to cancel some classes we had scheduled on how to use a fire extinguisher because we weren’t allowed to start a fire to demonstrate how to put it our,” he said. Cravens said that this year, the burn ban was enacted earlier than usual. “October usually has the most grass fires,” he said. “I’m starting to get concerned.” He had this advice for farmers to help them prevent the kind of thing that happened in Simpsonville. “Just make sure your equipment is well-maintained,” he said. “Sometimes farm equipment gets overheated operating with these kinds of conditions. It doesn’t take much and you will have a very fast moving fire.” Shelby County was included Monday in a request issued by Gov. Steve Beshear to add 20 more counties to the disaster relief request he made on Sept. 7, when he asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for assistance for 35 counties in response to drought-like conditions.  “The expanding drought conditions continue to severely impact our agriculture sector,” Beshear wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tome Vilsack.  Minimal rain The NWS reports that this region has received 0.11 inches of rain in September, which is about 2 inches below normal for this time of year. Also, only 2 inches of rain fell in August, which was also below normal by 1.5 inches Sullivan said at noon Thursday the temperature was “just 91” at Louisville International Airport, so he didn’t know if it would reach the predicted high or not. But it was still plenty hot enough, he added. “The grass seems to be turning browner right in front of my eyes.”