Southwest Winds Elevate Fire Risk, Threaten Blowing Dust

May 26, 2012; 6:22 AM ET
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A home is engulfed by flames from a wildfire, south of Gardnerville, Nev., on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. The fast-moving wildfire near the Nevada-California line destroyed at least two homes on Tuesday as it forced evacuations and sent up huge plumes of black smoke, witnesses said. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)

High winds will continue to blast the Southwest into the weekend, bringing the already high fire threat to extreme levels.

"Winter-storm-style winds" are in store for the Southwest as a storm system plows from northern California into the interior Southwest.

Wind gusts of 35-45 mph will be stirred across the Southwest Deserts through tonight and into Saturday morning.

Winds of this magnitude threaten to rapidly spread the flames of wildfires already burning across the Southwest, particularly across fire-ravaged Arizona. Burning embers spread by winds can cause fires to jump.

Several wildfires continue to burn across Arizona, including the Gladiator Fire, which has charred more than 16,200 acres. The Sunflower Fire has burned more than 16,100 acres in Arizona.

Across western New Mexico, multiple fires are burning in the Gila National Forest. For details on fire stats, visit Inciweb.

AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to monitor the potential for spreading wildfires and impacts of smoke from fires in the Southwest over the next couple of days.

The strong cross winds will make travel dangerous for high profile vehicles, with the highest gusts threatening to overturn semi trucks and campers. Any blowing dust stirred by the winds could suddenly reduce the visibility, creating hazards for any motorists.

Meanwhile, the northerly winds will also herald the arrival of cooler air for areas that have been sizzling.

Temperatures have been soaring into the upper 90s and 100 degrees in Phoenix since the middle of May. By Saturday, the high will be in the mid-80s.

The core of heat will shift from the Southwest to the Ohio Valley by Memorial Day weekend.

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