November 30, 2022

Extremely critical fire conditions return to the Southwest and tornadoes threaten the Central Plains

4 min read

One million acres have been burned since January, more than the annual average of about 632,000 acres. New Mexico in particular has been hit hard by the 5 major fires that are currently burning, and there is no chance of a break in the forecast for the next few days.

New Mexico has already reached its annual rate of fire activity and it is only April.

“Our weather started earlier than in the past,” says Andrew Church, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist with the Albuquerque office.

“Due to climate change and mega droughts in western America, soil moisture is no longer there,” he added.

This lack of soil moisture, high temperatures and strong winds are the main factors that will make the existing fires and new fires uncontrollable.

The danger of fire has increased to an extreme level today.

Red flag warnings have been issued for some of the driest winds yet, especially in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. On Friday, the risk of fire will increase to level 3 of the “extremely critical” range, as conditions worsen.

The area facing the Level 3 condition covers parts of southeastern Colorado, including the city of Pueblo.

The hurricane forecast center said winds of 30 to 40 mph were expected in the area and winds of 55 mph.

Kyle Moseley, a NWS meteorologist in Pueblo, says: “We’ve already spent three days at extreme levels this year and there were some concerns.

“Any fire that starts has the potential to spread rapidly, including throwing cigarette butts at a campfire, and things like that, that would be another fear,” Moseley said.

“With this ‘extreme’ concern, we cannot rule out the extended ‘critical’ area, which covers five states (NM, CO, TX, OK and KS) and includes Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Lubbock, Amarillo and Midland, Texas. ” “Dry, windy conditions in the region will be near critical levels, above critical levels.”

They are monitoring the current large fire. Add tunnel fire. In Arizona, where 19,075 acres have been burned and the fire has been contained 89 percent, and Hermes Peak / Calf Canyon Fire In New Mexico, spread over 63,720 acres and 33% on containment.

Hard to believe but the drought gets worse.

US Drought Monitor Thursday brought more bad news. Drought intensified in the southwest and south plains last week.

The drought summary said: “Deterioration was common in the Southwest, with unusual droughts (2 highest) spreading widely in New Mexico and moderate to severe droughts in parts of Arizona and Colorado. I’m growing. “

New Mexico has twice the area of ​​the extreme drought. It now covers more than 15% of the state. Drought has intensified in the state since the beginning of the year, with about 68% of the state now in the worst of the worst.

“It looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Church said. “We used to see the relative humidity go up behind the cold fronts, but with the soil moisture completely gone, the air stays dry with a relative humidity and this creates fire hazards.”

“We may have to wait a while until the monsoon rains start, hopefully sometime in late June,” he continued.

Rain in the east, but it comes with another danger.

This is a different kind of threat in the plains on Friday. As the required rains do not occur in the west and southwest, thunderstorms can be violent in the plains with severe climatic elements such as destructive winds, large hailstorms and even hurricanes, such as a powerful storm from the Rockies. Comes to the east.

The Hurricane Prediction Center (SPC) has raised the risk of severe storms in parts of Kansas and Nebraska, including Lincoln and Hastings, to 4 out of 5 “moderate” risks. “All severe weather hazards are possible, but catastrophic wind gusts could eventually become a more widespread threat in south-east to east NE and northeast / northeast KS,” the SPC said in its latest debate.

The total risk of severe storms extends to more than 10 million people across the Central Plains, where “multiple forecast scenarios are expected to continue this afternoon and tonight,” according to the SPC. Although catastrophic winds are possible in parts of Nebraska and Kansas, some strong storms and large hailstones (from baseball to softball-sized) are also possible on Friday afternoons and nights.

Severe storms are expected to be most active in the afternoon and evening hours.

Ray Sondag, a meteorologist with NWS in Tulsa, told CNN that he expects the worst time to be between 6pm and midnight.

“If we get the dry line setting, which we think we’re going to do, it’s going to move southeast Oklahoma with thunderstorms and tennis balls with winds of up to 70 mph and a few tornadoes. Can produce hailstones of any size. “

The Midwestern cities of St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis are expected to experience severe thunderstorms on Saturday.

CNN’s Chad Myers, Monica Garrett, Haley Brink and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.

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