Extremely critical fire conditions return to the southwest and cyclones threaten the Central Plains 2022-04-29 06:33:27


Since January, more than 1 million acres have been burned, well above the year-to-date average of about 632,000 acres. New Mexico has been particularly hard hit as there are currently 5 major fires burning and there is no change in the next couple of days to the forecast.

New Mexico has already reached its annual fire activity and is only in April.

“Our season started earlier than it has in the past,” says Andrew Church, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist in the Albuquerque office.

“Because of climate change and massive drought across the western United States, there isn’t much moisture in the soil anymore,” he adds.

Lack of soil moisture, high temperatures and strong winds are the main factors that will lead to the outbreak of existing fires and the uncontrollable spread of new ones.

The dangerous fire threat is growing to the extreme today

Red flag warnings were issued with winds blowing in some of the driest weather to date, particularly in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Friday’s fire risk will rise to level 3 of the “extremely critical” range as conditions deteriorate.

Level 3 includes parts of southeastern Colorado, including Pueblo City.

“Winds in this area are expected to last 30 to 40 miles per hour with gusts of up to 55 miles per hour,” the Storm Prediction Center says.

“We’ve already had three days at the extreme this year and we’ve been a bit worried about this. We’ve had multiple fires so far this year,” says Kyle Moseley, an NWS meteorologist in Pueblo.

“Any fire that actually starts will have the potential to spread quickly, and that includes throwing cigarette butts into campfires to bring down power lines and things like that, that would be another fear,” Moseley says.

“Besides this ‘extreme’ concern, we cannot rule out an expanded ‘critical’ region that covers parts of five states (NM, CO, TX, OK and KS) and includes Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Lubbock, Amarillo and Midland, Texas,” the Storm Forecasting Center said. “Dry and windy conditions in the region will be on top of the critical threshold, close to the extreme critical parameters.”

The current major fires they’re monitoring Including fire tunnel in Arizona on 19,075 acres and containing 89% along with Hermit Peak / Calf Canyon Fire In New Mexico it has an area of ​​63,720 acres and a 33% containment.

Hard to believe but the drought is getting worse

US Drought Monitor Bring more bad news on Thursday. The southwestern and southern plains have seen more droughts in the past week.

“Deterioration was common throughout the Southwest, with exceptional drought (second highest rated) that expanded widely in New Mexico and moderate to severe drought increasing in coverage across parts of Arizona and Colorado,” the drought summary said.

New Mexico doubled the area covered by the exceptional drought (highest level) – now covering more than 15% of the state. Drought in the state has intensified steadily since the beginning of the year with nearly 68% of the state now experiencing severe to exceptional drought.

“It looks like things are going to get worse before they get better,” Church says. “We’re used to seeing relative humidity surging behind cold fronts, but with soil moisture completely depleted, air staying dry with single-digit relative humidity leads to these fire threats.”

“We may have to wait a long time for the monsoons to come, hopefully sometime in late June,” he continues.

It’s raining in the east, but this comes with another threat

It’s a different kind of threat on the Plains on Friday. When rain misses the need to the west and southwest, thunderstorms can become violent on the plains with extreme weather factors such as damaging winds, great hail, and even hurricanes, as a powerful storm tracks down from the Rocky Mountains eastward.

The Storm Forecast Center has a 3 out of 5 hazard level across parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, including Tulsa, Wichita, and Lincoln, where the hurricane threat will be higher.

Severe storms are expected to be most active in the afternoon and evening.

Meteorologist Ray Sundagh of the NWS in Tulsa told CNN he expects the worst time to be between 6 p.m. and midnight.

“If we get a dry streak, which we think we’ll do, these thunderstorms will move into southeastern Oklahoma and can produce hail the size of a tennis ball along with 70-mph winds and some tornadoes.”

On Saturday, the Midwestern cities of St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis will be at risk of severe storms.

CNN’s Chad Myers, Monica Jarrett, and Taylor Ward contributed to this report.