Fire danger to increase across US southern High Plains after extreme drought shatters 100-year-old records

By Kyle Elliott, AccuWeather meteorologist
February 19, 2018, 2:20:16 AM EST

Gusty winds will raise the fire danger across the southern High Plains of the United States into Monday evening, a region largely starved of meaningful rainfall since fall of 2017.

The most recent U.S. drought monitor reveals that severe drought covers a large area from southern Kansas, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle to most of the Four Corners region.

A pocket of extreme drought engulfs the northern Texas Panhandle, western Oklahoma and neighboring parts of southern Kansas.

Drought Feb 17

“To put the dryness in perspective, Feb. 16 marked the 126th-consecutive day without rain in Amarillo, Texas, shattering the previous mark of 75 days from 1957,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Faith Eherts said.

A new record for consecutive days without measurable precipitation was set in Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 15, “marking the 99th-consecutive day without measurable precipitation,” Eherts said.

The dry streak was then broken late Friday evening as showers returned.

While the rainfall was welcome, amounts in these cities were held to less than 0.25 of an inch. That will barely put a dent in the drought.

More substantial rain fell in between these two cities on Friday. This includes Plainview, Texas, which hit 130 days without measurable precipitation on Feb. 14.

Stats Feb 17

“Similar statistics are emanating out of Oklahoma, where Woodward and Laverne reached 128 days without measurable precipitation on Feb. 15,” Eherts said.

In Oklahoma City, less than 1 inch of precipitation fell between Nov. 1 and Feb. 16, more than 5 inches shy of the normal amount of precipitation for this span.

Similar statistics hold for Wichita, Kansas, where residents have only seen 18 percent of normal precipitation since Nov. 1 of last year.

Farther to the west in Dodge City, Kansas, the period from Oct. 7 to Feb. 13 is the driest on record dating back to 1874 with only 0.15 of an inch of rain. The dry periods from 1880 and 1876 previously held this record.

Lakes, rivers and reservoirs in the southern Plains and Southwest are running well below normal and some are approaching dangerously low levels.

Long-term drought concerns are growing each day that passes without meaningful precipitation.

South Central US regional weather radar
Detailed Oklahoma City weather forecast
2018 US spring forecast: dry, hot conditions to persist in Southwest

More rain is in store for the South Central states into Wednesday but the most meaningful rain will miss most of the areas enduring the worst drought conditions.

Instead, the southern Plains will face a heightened fire danger to kick off the week.

Fire danger

"The combination of the prolonged dry spell, gusty winds and low relative humidity heightened the fire danger," AccuWeather Meteorologist Evan Duffey said.

There are no signs that the weather pattern will produce rain in these areas through at least the first few days of March.

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