Projected relative humidity values by early this afternoon.
All eyes will be on the critical fire danger expected by late morning into this afternoon. The combination of strong north winds, dry surface fuels, and low relative humidity will result in the potential for explosive fire behavior today. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for much of North Texas, Central Texas, Southeast Texas, the Brazos Valley, the Coastal Plains, South Texas, and the Rio Grande Valley. By definition a Red Flag Warning means conditions are very favorable for the rapid spread of wildfires. The highest fire danger will be from 11 AM through 5 PM today. Please understand that relative humidity values will drop below 30 percent across all of Texas today so outdoor burning is not a good idea.
A strong northwesterly jet will be overhead today. As temperatures warm this afternoon some of that wind will mix down to the surface. We’re expecting gusty northwest winds of 20 to 30 MPH sustained across the northern Panhandle into North Texas, East Texas, and Southeast Texas. Wind gusts could exceed 40 MPH. Those winds will result in explosive fire behavior with any fires that develop. Extreme caution should be used if you’re handling any equipment that could cause a spark outdoors today. Some locations automatically go under a burn ban if a Red Flag Warning is issued. It goes without saying you shouldn’t be throwing your cigarettes out of your vehicle regardless of fire danger.
High temperatures will range from the low 50s to the upper 60s this afternoon. Those are right around average for early February but it won’t matter too much with the brisk wind expected. By tonight winds will diminish and temperatures will fall back into the 20s, 30s, to mid 40s. Fire crews should be able to make progress tonight on any larger fires that develop today.
It is a very cold morning across parts of the state. The good news is temperatures will rebound quite nicely this afternoon. Skies will remain mostly clear through the day. Clouds will be on the increase tonight across the Texas Panhandle into Northwest Texas as a storm system begins its approach. Moisture levels will be too low for anything more than a few sprinkles on Friday Night. Temperatures this afternoon will peak around their averages for early February. Nothing too cold and nothing exceptionally warm. There may be a slight wind chill – especially across the Texas Panhandle.
Tonight will be a few degrees warmer compared to this morning across the western half of Texas. Meanwhile Northeast Texas and East Texas will actually be colder. Temperatures statewide will range from the lower 20s to right around 40 degrees. Cloud cover will be on the increase across the Panhandle, Northwest Texas, into West-Central Texas tonight.
Winds Will Rapidly Increase Soon across West Texas & Permian Basin
Winds have been slow to increase across West Texas and the Permian Basin this morning. That is due to the upper level storm system running a bit slower than planned. Over the past hour we’ve seen wind speeds rapidly increase across eastern New Mexico and in the higher terrain of Far West Texas. A boundary is quickly moving east across the South Plains. Temperatures rapidly increase along with a quick decrease in dewpoint values as that boundary moves over a given location. Winds also rapidly increase with gusts already up to 50+ MPH. At the same time a very strong jetstream is moving into Far West Texas and the Permian Basin. This jetstream will eject east into the South Plains, Rolling Plains, and Permian Basin over the next three hours. As that occurs those strong winds will mix down to the surface. Winds at 18,000 feet ASL will exceed 140 MPH – something we don’t actually see that often in Texas. Not all of that wind will mix down to the surface but we are expecting gusts to approach 60 MPH. The higher elevations in Far West Texas – such as the Guadalupe mountains – could see wind gusts approach 80 to 90 MPH this afternoon. Winds will be highest from 2 PM this afternoon through about 6 PM. After sunset an inversion will start to help winds at the surface decrease. Widespread blowing dust is expected across the southern Texas Panhandle, South Plains, Rolling Plains, Permian Basin, into Far West Texas this afternoon. Some of the dust could become dense – especially where the highest wind gusts set up. Its possible a few elevated showers may occur across the Texas Panhandle through early evening. No severe weather is expected. The fire danger will be critical across the regions listed above and into the Big Country, Concho Valley, Northwest Texas, Hill Country, and western North and Central Texas through sunset.
Chilly Tonight But Pleasant Temps Ahead for Saturday and Sunday
A weak cold front pushed through the panhandle region earlier today, though it thankfully it will not do much more than just bring a wind shift along with it. Conditions will remain breezy across the panhandle and northern Texas overnight, but will begin to calm by morning. We could see some patchy fog along the upper coast tomorrow morning, but other than that, nothing noteworthy to mention for the overnight forecast. Lows tonight will drop down into the 20s and 30s across much of the panhandle behind the weak front. Amarillo will see lows around 37 tonight, Lubbock around 33 and the coldest spot will likely be Dalhart which will drop down to around 29. For the remainder of the state, south winds and slightly increasing moisture will keep overnight lows from dipping much below the mid to upper 40s for most. Dallas will see lows around 48, Waco around 46, Corpus Christi around 55 and Houston will drop to around 50.
Highs on Saturday will reach levels well above average for the end of January. We will likely see highs approaching 80 degrees across portions of west and west central Texas by tomorrow afternoon. West/Southwest winds will pick up across west and west central Texas tomorrow afternoon once again. That combined with way above average temperatures and low humidity values will bring another day with the threat for grass fires across the region. Please be extra careful with anything that could cause a spark or flame…especially if you’re planning to camp or cook outdoors tomorrow afternoon and evening…and please don’t toss cigarette butts out the window. Blowing dust may also become an issue at times tomorrow afternoon, especially across the western and southwestern portions of the panhandle. The Critical Fire Weather Outlook for west Texas is expected to remain high through Monday before our next strong cold front arrives.
Critical Fire Weather Danger Today & Saturday with Very Warm Temperatures
Today will not feel like a late January day. Temperatures will soar into the upper 60s to upper 70s across all of Texas this afternoon. Those values are well above what is average for January. I doubt many folks will object except those that want snow. No worries – winter is not over by any means. While we haven’t seen many winter storms outside of the western third of Texas so far that is no guarantee we won’t through March. Snow will be possible in the Texas Panhandle Monday Night and on Tuesday. Outside of that I don’t anticipate any winter weather in the remainder of Texas for the next week.
What we will be dealing with today and on Saturday is critical fire weather danger. The fire-weather meteorologists at the Storm Prediction Center have highlighted a critical risk for wildfires across West-Central Texas and the Big Country this afternoon. Elevated to near-critical fire weather danger will exist across the Texas Panhandle, Permian Basin, Concho Valley, Northwest Texas, and along and west of Interstate 35 from Gainesville south to Temple. Outdoor burning is strongly discouraged today as any fire has the potential to rapidly spread. Fire departments should be prepared for a busy day and the potential for mutual-aid activation due to fast-moving fires.
By early afternoon winds will be out of the west or southwest across the highest risk locations. Wind gusts could approach 30 MPH. Relative humidity values are expected to be in the 20 to 30 percent range. Surface temperatures will be in the lower 70s by this afternoon. A cool front will result in a wind shift across the Texas Panhandle this afternoon but surface temperatures won’t fall much. Humidity values will rise quickly this evening and tonight as temperatures fall back into the 30s and 40s.
The dry airmass will allow temperatures to fall back quickly tonight. We’re expecting 30s in the Panhandle, West Texas, and Permian Basin. 40s can be expected across North Texas, East Texas, Central Texas, South-Central Texas, and the Coastal Plains. Lower 50s will be common in SOutheast Texas into the Rio Grande Valley. Those right along the coast will be in the mid to upper 50s overnight with sea fog.
Critical fire weather is already forecast on Saturday across Far West Texas into the Permian Basin. Near-critical fire weather danger is expected across West Texas, the South Plains, Northwest Texas, the Big Country, and the Concho Valley. Expansion of those risk areas are possible with an outlook update later today. Surface temperatures will be even warmer with mid 70s to lower 80s. Relative humidity values will be in the 20-25 percent range. Fire departments should be prepared for a busy fire weather period today through the weekend. Sunday has the potential to be a busy fire-weather day along and west of Interstate 35 including parts of North, Central, and South-Central Texas.