Gusty winds to elevate wildfire danger to extreme levels again in southwestern US
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
April 17, 2018, 9:35:05 PM EDT
A new storm forecast to push across the western United States will bring another dose of gusty winds and a critical wildfire danger into Tuesday night.
Gusty winds will enhance the potential for wildfire ignition and rapid spread.
Critical fire conditions are forecast in part of Arizona and southeastern Utah to New Mexico, Colorado, northwestern Texas, western Oklahoma, western Kansas and southwestern Nebraska.
Evacuations were ordered around Oakwood, Oklahoma, on Tuesday afternoon as a the Rhea Fire approached the town. This fire has been burning for several days and has burned over 200,000 acres.
While winds are not likely to be quite as strong as during this past week, gusts ranging between 40 and 60 mph will be strong enough to cause any fire that breaks out to spread swiftly.
Winds gusted past 60 mph in Denver on Tuesday afternoon with winds occasionally gusting past 80 mph north and northwest of the city.
This wind also kicked up dust across the region, greatly reducing the visibility.
High winds and dust have arrived at NWS Goodland! Use extreme caution if traveling due to winds gusting over 60 mph and zero visibility! pic.twitter.com/zBnS2rKCtz— NWS Goodland (@NWSGoodland) April 17, 2018
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The ongoing drought, which has been growing worse all winter, has now reached extreme and exceptional levels over a large portion of the Southwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The storm forecast to kick up winds is not likely to bring much, if any, rainfall to most areas in drought.
It is possible that another storm later in the week may dip far enough south and grab enough moisture to bring showers and thunderstorms to portions of the Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and southeastern Colorado High Plains.
The potential storm late in the week may also bring yet another round of gusty winds and a renewed wildfire threat to the region in lieu of any rainfall.
A small brush fire erupted on Sunday morning near Coachella, California, showing how at risk the Desert Southwest is for wildfire ignition even when strong winds are absent.
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