Unseasonably warm temperatures, low relative humidity, windy conditions are leading to a heightened concern for wildfire spread. While Thursday will the worst day, both today and Friday will also be heightened days for wildfire spread.
With little appreciable rain over the past 30 days and many areas in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma at 25% and less of their normal rainfall, conditions have become very dry and grasses and other vegetation will quickly catch fire with a spark or ember.
Weather Fueling the Wildfire Risk
Afternoon highs today across much of the Southern Plains will climb in to the upper 60’s to mid to upper 70’s. These warm temperatures combined with sustained wind speeds of 10 to 15 mph and gusts to 20 to 25 mph along with the relative humidity in the teens to around 30 percent today will provide the weather conditions for an increased risk of wildfire spread.
For today NWS SPC has outlined western Oklahoma and parts of North Central Texas with an elevated threat for wildfire.
Conditions on Thursday will worsen for a wildfire risk as afternoon highs will climb into the upper 70’s to low 80’s. Relative humidity will drop into the single digits to around 30% in the Central and Southern Plains by Thursday Afternoon. South to Southwest winds will average between 15 and 25 mph while wind gust will be between 35 to 45 mph. So any fires that are started will spread rapidly with these winds.
The SPIA Index Fire Spread hourly parameters show very high to extreme numbers for the growth and spread of a wildfire especially from noon on Thursday through roughly 8 pm CT.
The NWS Storm Prediction Center has outlined areas of Extreme and Critical Risk for wildfire spread across Western Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Southeastern Colorado and Eastern New Mexico. A broader area of Elevated Risk extends west into Arizona and north into Nebraska.
For the very concerning situation for wildfire spread, the NWS offices have already issued Red Flag warnings for parts of the Texas Panhandle for Thursday with broad areas of Fire Weather Watches in the areas of Critical and Elevated risk as well as into Missouri and Arkansas.
While conditions on Friday will not be as extreme as Thursday, the wildfire threat does continue for Friday.
Since grasses and brush are dry, a single spark or cigarette but could quickly lead to a rapidly moving and growing wildfire so smoking outside or throwing a cigarette butt out the window of your vehicle is not wise.
Ranchers also need to be conscious of any activities that may spark fires as well as monitor for any wildfire spread for the health and protection of their livestock.
With strong winds, especially in areas of stronger gusts, the fires will move quickly, especially on Thursday. So, if you see a fire, contact your local fire department immediately vs trying to respond to the fire on your own as these fires will like get out of control very quickly.
For information focused on Ranchers and agriculture related to wildfire, Texas extension office has some suggestions including what to monitor, secondary injuries and problems for cattle, how to clean up after a wildfire, etc.
The team at WxIntegrations will continue to provide relevant information and resources to help you better understand and prepare by incorporating weather impacts into your planning and response.