Preliminary estimates from the Texas Forest Service show the year-long drought in Texas may have claimed as many as a half-billion trees.
The agency surveyed forestry professionals from regions around Texas, which has a total tree population of about 4.9 billion. Researchers analyzing the information have determined from 100 million to 500 million, or from 2 to 10 percent of all trees, have been lost.
Burl Carraway, who heads the agency's sustainable forestry department, says the exceptional drought, high winds and record-setting temperatures left trees dead or struggling to survive.
The survey results released Monday found hardest hit areas include Sutton, Crockett, Kimble and Pecos counties in West Texas; Montgomery, Harris, Grimes, Madison and Leon counties in Southeast Texas; and Bastrop and Caldwell counties in Central Texas.
More Texans Have Holiday Travel Plans
AAA Texas says 7.5 million Texans are expected to travel this holiday season, which officially begins Friday and runs through January 2nd.
AAA's Sarah Schimmer says about seven million will "drive". That's up 3% from last year.
Schimmer: 364,000 Texans are going to fly during the year-end holidays. And then 234,000 Texans will travel by bus, train or cruise ship. And interestingly lots of families are now opting to cruise over the holidays, which is something we really haven't seen in past years, but perhaps a new holiday tradition for some families out there.
Schimmer says the average distance of travel for Texans this holiday season is 817 miles round-trip.
BJ Austin, KERA News
Double-dipping state rep gets 5 years' probation
Republican state Rep. Joe Driver has been sentenced to five years' probation for using taxpayer money in a double-dipping reimbursement scheme.
Driver did not speak Monday during the hearing in a Travis County court. Prosecutors had recommended the sentence last month after the Dallas-area lawmaker pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of abuse of official capacity.
Driver admitted he reimbursed himself with public money for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses that his campaign had already covered.
He was ordered to pay nearly $64,000 in restitution and a $5,000 fine.
Driver has announced he will not seek re-election. He has served in the House since 1992.
EPA reports suggests asbestos exposure in Texas
A report from the Environmental Protection Agency says an experimental asbestos demolition method used at a Fort Worth apartment building may have exposed workers and the public to carcinogenic fibers.
The EPA's inspector general says the agency should notify anyone who was in or near the building during the 2007 demolition.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that testing of dust from the Oak Hollow apartments and another building in Fort Chaffee, Ark., showed the release of asbestos fibers.
Fort Worth was believed to be the first urban area to test a "wet" demolition method in which crews take down a building without first removing asbestos. The walls and ceilings are soaked to try to keep fibers from being released.
Perry: Wall Street bailout biggest theft in US
Gov. Rick Perry is calling the Wall Street bailout "the single biggest act of theft in American history."
Campaigning in Iowa on Monday, Perry sought to cast himself as an outsider who would cut Washington's influence. He painted Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, as status quo politicians who should worry Republicans voters.
Perry says the country needs a president who understands Main Street and is not beholden to Wall Street.
With just two weeks before Iowans begin assessing the GOP field, Perry says the values he learned in rural Texas have shaped his views. He says "no one was going to bail out a dry-land cotton farmer" and no one should have bailed out Wall Street during the 2008 financial crisis.
More crashes at intersections with flashing lights
A new University of Texas study has found that intersections with flashing lights have three times more accidents than those with only stop signs.
Researchers also found that the intersections with highway frontage roads are among the most dangerous in the country.
The research team led by professor Chandra Bhat examined which intersections were the most dangerous. A follow-on study will look at how they can be improved.
Roughly 40 percent of all traffic accidents take place at intersections. Bhat said it wasn't clear if flashing lights confused drivers, or if the traffic engineers are placing flashing lights at the most dangerous intersections.
Drivers exiting highways are also more likely to crash, either because they are going too fast or switching lanes in a dangerous manner.
West Texas has 3rd earthquake since late November
West Texas has recorded its third earthquake in less than a month.
The U.S. Geological Survey website says a 3.2 magnitude earthquake happened at 8:46 a.m. Saturday, centered 5 miles north-northeast of Snyder, in Scurry County. The area is 78 miles southeast of Lubbock.
Authorities had had no immediate reports of injury or damage.
A 3.4 magnitude quake happened Dec. 9 and was centered 15 miles north of Snyder. USGS says on Nov. 24, a 3.0 magnitude quake was centered 17 miles north-northeast of Snyder.
The federal agency says a 2.7 magnitude earthquake on Dec. 7 was centered about 29 miles southwest of Dallas.
A rare South Texas earthquake happened Oct. 27, with a 4.8 magnitude and epicenter about 37 miles northwest of Beeville.