The year that's about to pass into the past has been one for the record books.

Mother Nature showed her extremes, as the year went from snow and ice to fire and wind. Natural disasters around the world even rippled to Glen Rose and Somervell County.

Political fallout, too, rained on the area in the form of state and federal budget cuts. The local political scene recorded some shifts in leadership as well.

But for the first three quarters of 2011, not much else rained down on the county. The drought hit hard and Somervell County residents spent much of the year under a burn ban. But the fires kept burning.

The Glen Rose Reporter staff got together and chose what we thought were the top 10 news stories of the year. We focused on the events that affected the most people, caused the most change or were the most interesting.

You may or may not agree with our choices, so please post your own picks on our Facebook page.

Happy New Year from all of us at the Reporter!

1. The historic drought

Maybe we should all wear T-shirts reading, "I survived the summer of 2011." We got a taste of what the Dustbowl was like right here in Glen Rose and Somervell County. First the rivers dried up. Then the lakes started going down, down, down. Stock tanks disappeared. So did rain clouds. The number of days with triple-digit temperatures broke records.

The sight of 18-wheelers carrying bales of hay and hauling cattle for sale became common sights. Some ranchers sold their herds and got out of the business altogether. Others used it as an opportunity to buy cattle cheap.

The drought's impact went far beyond agriculture. The area's tourism business dried up, too, as the heat and empty rivers kept crowds away from tourist attractions and outdoor pursuits such as canoeing. Ironically, hundreds of dinosaur tracks not normally visible in the Paluxy River bed at Dinosaur Valley State Park were uncovered, but it was so hot not many people came to see them.

2. Wildfires

With the drought came fire. So much dry fuel lay on the ground and low humidity and wind further dried out the land that even a spark from a lawn mower or hay baler blade hitting a rock ignited fires.

When the first big wildfire flared up near the Bosque-Somervell county line, it quickly spread and threatened nearby residential developments. Miraculously, even though thousands of acres burned, no homes were lost and there were no major injuries or deaths.

That also was the case when another major fire threatened homes and ranches along CR 1008. After repeated flare-ups, dumps of water from helicopters and flame retardant chemicals by fixed-wing planes, firefighters finally put out the hot spots. We were fortunate, but other areas, such as around Possum Kingdom Lake and Bastrop, weren't so lucky.

Many thanks go to the Somervell County Fire Department, Somervell County Sheriff's Department, City of Glen Rose employees and volunteer firefighters from area communities and counties for their efforts to extinguish the fires and risk their own safety to protect others.

3. Changes in leadership

At midnight last Jan. 1, Mike Ford was sworn in as county judge and succeeded Walter Maynard, who retired after more than a decade of leading the county through some tough times. Ford and the commissioners court had to tackle some thorny issues the past year, too, such as how to continue the level of county services at a time when the state is forcing more "unfunded mandates" on counties and contributing less.

The Glen Rose City Council also underwent a change of leadership, with past mayor Jean King elected once again and Dennis Moore and Sandra Ramsay bringing some new blood and independent thinking to Town Hall (and no family members needing work). It looks like this council is serious about hiring a city administrator, too.

4. The earthquake felt all the way to Glen Rose

When an earthquake and tsunami in March crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the waves rippled to the United States and all the way to Glen Rose and the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant.

The entire nuclear industry came under scrutiny and the U.S. Regulatory Commission's certification of new reactor technology will be delayed.

Comanche Peak earlier this year moved a step closer in its application process to build two additional nuclear reactors when a panel of judges threw out the last objections to its environmental impact statement by a group of intervenors. The plant plans to use reactors designed by a Japanese company, Mitsubishi.

5. Water district turns on

The Somervell County Water District finished its new water treatment plant and the first phase of its pipeline expansion to the county's outer limits. It also built a water tower that's a new landmark on FM 56 north and began supplying water to the City of Glen Rose.

Wheeler Branch Reservoir also opened its park and the lake for fishing.

So turn on the water and taste your tax dollars at work.

6. New GRISD arena rises

Construction began on the new 2,000-set sports arena approved by voters in a 2010 bond election and was completed by year-end. The first game will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, when the Lady Tigers basketball team plays District 8-3A opponent Alvarado. At 8 p.m. the Runnin' Tigers basketball team takes on Graham.

All Somevell County residents will be admitted free with a driver's license or other proof of residence.

The ribbon-cutting and community open house will be on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 10 a.m. when the GRISD board of trustees will cut the ribbon. A welcome and scoreboard sponsors recognition will take follow at 10:30 a.m. Regional and state qualifying teams will be recognized at 11 a.m.

7. Gary Marks retires as medical center CEO

It felt like the end of an era when Gary Marks this year decided to retired as chief executive officer of Glen Rose Medical Center, where he had worked for 38 years. His father, Dr. Roger Marks, and Dr. Robert English co-founded the clinic that evolved into the medical center.

Marks was succeeded by Ray Reynolds, who had been the medical center's chief financial officer.

Under Marks, GRMC became a county-owned facility controlled by a county Hospital Authority Board. It also went through a series of upgrades in medical technology, facilities and an electronic medical records system.

But the medical center has battled the cost of providing care to indigents and people without insurance, which hammered its bottom line. Under Marks GRMC also brought more specialists to Glen Rose and began an affiliation with Baylor Health Care System.

8. GRISD academic and athletic milestones

The Lady Tigers made the softball playoffs for first time in history and the Tigers progressed to the district playoffs in football. But the academic milestones are just as important. Eight Glen Rose High School students went all the way to the state UIL competition and Glen Rose seniors collectively raked in more than $2 million in scholarships. See the Education page for more.

9. John Wayne returns to Glen Rose

After a 30-year absence, the original wax model of artist Robert Summers' John Wayne sculpture — cast into bronze for the Orange County International Airport in California — returned to Glen Rose and found a permanent home at the new White Buffalo Gallery.

The sculpture had been residing at the Hokey Hey foundry between Stephenville and Dublin before Summers fetched it in his pickup truck and brought it back to Glen Rose. The gallery held a standing-room-only reception for the unveiling.

The sculpture already has been attracting tourists. It's good to know Big John is back.

10. And so is…rain!

When the rains finally came this fall and the rivers and tanks filled back up, Glen Rose celebrated a spectacular autumn. And while it's too early to proclaim the drought finally over, it's a much-needed respite. Nature is constantly remaking itself and we need an extreme makeover in the new year.