Extremely Critical Fire Weather Conditions Into Thursday Evening in the Southwest and Southern Rockies

Jonathan Belles
Published: April 12, 2018

Extreme fire weather conditions, including the possibility of rapid and/or erratic fire growth, have developed Thursday in parts of the Southwest and the southern and central Plains.

(MORE: Current Temperatures | Current Dew Point)

Setup

Winter Storm Xanto will sweep a dryline and a cold front eastward through the Southwest and southern Plains into Thursday evening. 

Behind the dryline, temperatures will climb into the 70s and 80s in a pocket of immensely dry air. A few spots in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles have eclipsed 90 degrees Thursday afternoon with humidity values at their lowest of the day.

Gage, Oklahoma, has reached 100 degrees Thursday afternoon, which is an all-time monthly record high for April. The only other times Gage hit 100 degrees prior to May were March 19 and 20, 1907, back when Gage was part of Oklahoma Territory.

Relative humidity values may drop as low as 5 percent in a few spots from eastern New Mexico into the panhandles and into southeastern Colorado.

Setup for extremely critical fire weather conditions on Thursday.

Xanto will also have a powerhouse stream of winds to its south. A few spots could see wind gusts as high as 70 mph, and sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph are expected across much of the region.

These atmospheric conditions will combine with an extremely dry ground across much of the Southwest.

In fact, much of western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and northern New Mexico are enduring an extreme or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Most residents of the panhandles and in parts of eastern New Mexico have had very little rainfall, and a few spots in the Texas Panhandle have not had rain in the last 90 days.

Much of the southwestern United States has seen less than 50 percent of its average rainfall since the beginning of the calendar year.

(MORE: Peak of Tornado Season Approaches: April, May and June Are Most Active and Dangerous Months of Year)

Fire Weather Outlook

Red flag warnings are in place from the Southwest to the southern and central Plains. Areas in these warnings can expect that fire growth could be rapid and erratic. Fires could be difficult to control in these areas if any develop.


Fire Weather Alerts

Into Thursday Evening

According to the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, near-historic fire weather conditions are possible into Thursday evening in western North Texas and southwestern Oklahoma.

Extremely critical fire weather conditions are expected from southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas to western Texas and central and eastern New Mexico. If any fires ignite, they could be fast-moving and grow large, especially during the afternoon and early-evening hours when humidity is at its lowest.

Outdoor burning, grilling and smoking are strongly discouraged, as even small embers could grow rapidly into raging wildfires. 

In addition to fires, blowing dust and smoke may limit visibility across the Southwest. Areas of blowing dust may continue into Thursday night and Friday, even as humidity values increase overnight.

Driving may become difficult due to gusty winds and blowing dust. 

Friday

Conditions will remain favorable for fire growth and expansion on Friday afternoon east of the cold front, which should be moving eastward through western Texas and Oklahoma.

Critical or extremely critical fire weather conditions will be possible in southwestern and central Oklahoma, western Texas, southern New Mexico and southern Arizona through Friday afternoon due to an increase in winds that will arrive with a cold front.


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