The threat for wildfires has ramped back up for the first half of this new week. Conditions will be at their worst on Tuesday as relative humidity values drop below 15 percent and wind gusts reach as high as 50 mph and up to 90 mph in the mountain peaks of the Southwest. Temperatures will also be hot, soaring into the 90s in West Texas and western Oklahoma. Other areas in the fire threat zone will mainly be in the 70s and 80s.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has over 4 million people in the ‘Extremely Critical’ risk zone for wildfires on Tuesday, the highest category risk in their outlooks. This risk includes: most of New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and northwestern Texas. Forecasters at the SPC are using very harsh words, such as this statement: “Dangerous, life-threatening fire weather conditions are likely on Tuesday.”
Leading up to this peak wildfire risk on Tuesday as been numerous wildfires, especially in Oklahoma, which began mid-last week. Two people in the state have been killed due to these fires about 100 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. As of Monday morning, “the largest fire, which began near Leedey and has burned more than 245,000 acres in Dewey County, is about 3 percent contained, according to forestry services. A fire that began near Woodward, about 20 miles north of Leedey, has burned nearly 68,000 acres and is 45 percent contained.” According to Oklahoma Forestry Services spokeswoman Shawna Hartman, “as bad as it is going to be today, we anticipate [Tuesday] being worse.”
Looking ahead to the forecast past Tuesday, the threat for fires will persist into Wednesday. The risk will then come to an end, at least for a brief time Thursday as moisture increases and winds decrease ahead of an incoming storm system. That storm system will pose the risk for severe storms from West Texas through portions of western Oklahoma. Also over an inch of rain may fall in these areas between Friday and Saturday, a region that is current experiencing a drought.
Parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and New Mexico are in an ‘Exceptional Drought,’ the most severe category. This drought is due to the lack of rain. In Amarillo, Texas, there has only been one day so far this year that has recorded measurable rainfall. That will likely change on Friday. Then looking farther ahead to the weekend, there will be the risk for wildfires primarily in eastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and extreme-West Texas.