Increased warmth, gusty winds prompt high risk of wildfires in drought-plagued southern Plains
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
March 16, 2018, 8:47:28 PM EDT
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Conditions are ideal for wildfire ignition and rapid spreading over the southern Plains into Friday night.
In the short term, a combination of gusty winds, dry air, warmth and dry brush are the main contributors to the elevated risk of wildfires from northeastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas to southeastern Colorado, western and central Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
Cities that are within the wildfire threat area include Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Lubbock and Wichita Falls, Texas; Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas; Lamar and Pueblo, Colorado; and Las Vegas and Tucumcari, New Mexico.
People need to be extremely careful when using outdoor power equipment and charcoal and gas grills to avoid sparks. Never toss burning cigarettes on the ground. Avoid parking vehicles over brush as the exhaust systems are extremely hot and can start a fire.
Temperatures will surge into 60s and 70s F over the region.
Winds may gust as high as 50 mph.
The air will be almost desertlike into the early evening hours.
The most common ways people spark devastating wildfires in the US
Gusty thunderstorms to kick up over central Plains into Friday night
Snow, wintry mix to pose travel hazards in midwestern US through Friday night
Another round of severe, drenching storms to target southern US into Sunday night
In the long term, severe to exceptional drought exists over much of the region.
While grassy areas are typically beginning to turn green around this time of the year, a lack of rain and snow over the winter has resulted in a much slower and limited green-up.
Much less wind and slightly cooler air are forecast for Saturday.
However, warm, dry winds and an elevated risk of wildfires may return to part of the region on Sunday. This risk would be in areas that do not receive rainfall from thunderstorms.
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