High fire danger returns to Central Texas through at least Sunday
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - As evidenced by the grass fire that destroyed dozens of cars at The Robinson Family Farm last weekend, the wildfire danger in Central Texas remains elevated due to the ongoing drought. As we move through the weekend, the fire danger is expected to be very high across all of Central Texas thanks to a big increase in southerly winds.
One of the windiest weekends in a while starts today
A byproduct of the ongoing drought (due to the lack of storm systems bringing us rain) is a drop in wind speeds. Summertime months typically aren’t too breezy, but Central Texas has not experienced widespread wind gusts of 30 MPH or higher since the end of Spring. We’re forecasting wind speeds to greatly increase this weekend thanks to a strong area of low pressure moving toward the Plains this weekend.
Wind gusts stay manageable Friday, likely gusting between 20 and 25 MPH. As an area of low pressure strengthens across the Central Plains, wind gusts out of the south on Saturday may increase to between 30 and 35 MPH area wide with gusts nearing 40 MPH in some spots Sunday.
Wind speeds will come down early next week as our next storm system moves through, but not by much. We’re still expecting near 30 MPH wind gusts Monday as a cold front arrives, and the close pass of an area of low pressure Tuesday keeps wind speeds gusting to near 30 MPH too.
Wind, hot temperatures, and dry ground elevates the fire risk
Wildfires typically feed off of four different ingredients: wind, low humidity, high temperatures, and dry ground. Just like with severe storms, not all of those ingredients needs to be present for wildfires to form.
We won’t have the idealized conditions for wildfires this weekend, but the exceptionally dry ground, the warm temperatures, and the gusty winds will offset the higher humidity that south winds will pull in from the Gulf of Mexico.
With the ongoing drought, the wildfire risk this weekend, courtesy of the Texas A&M Forest Service, is in the very high category for nearly the entire area.
The exceptionally dry ground means that fires will likely start easily from any source of ignition and the increased wind speeds mean embers from any fires may carry and keep wildfires going.
Wildfire safety tips
Since Central Texas has lots of farm and grassland, there’s a myriad of different things that could spark a fire. Although the majority of wildfires in Texas start over open land, wildfire risk will also be elevated in parks, neighborhoods, and in backyards too.
A good rule of thumb for the next few days is that anything that could spark a grassfire probably will. The main culprits of wildfires in Texas are improperly discarded cigarette butts, but wildfires can start and have started from something as simple as using a lawnmower, dragging chains behind a car or truck, or even starting a vehicle on grass. Although unlikely this weekend despite the increased wind speeds, downed powerlines can also cause a wildfire to start.
Remember, most Central Texas counties are under a burn ban and all types of outdoor burning is prohibited. Although you may not be burning trash or other debris because of the burn ban, be especially vigilant about other ignition sources.
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