I’ve never seen a ‘Particularly Dangerous Situation’ Red Flag Warning issued… until today. A very dangerous wildfire weather event is setting up across the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, Permian Basin, and the Trans-Pecos for Sunday through Monday Morning. I’m well aware that we’ve had several high-end fire days this winter.
Tomorrow is setting up to be the most dangerous one of them all thus far. Forecast weather conditions are similar to conditions that have produced ‘Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreaks’ in the past.
Like high-end severe weather events, the potential for a high-end wildfire outbreak is also recognizable in forecast data. Extreme drought conditions, above-average temperatures, humidity values that are very low, and very high winds all are criteria.
While a bit simplistic sounding, there are several meteorological factors that go into forecasting a Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak. A vast majority of events do not qualify. Tomorrow looks like it very well may.
The last southern plains wildfire outbreak was on March 6, 2017. That day had numerous fires burn over one million acres and resulted in several fatalities.
Folks need to understand how dangerous tomorrow could end up being. Any wildfire that develops could spread at about 5 MPH, perhaps even faster. Fires will not be containable or controllable. Any fire that starts will probably not be stopped until weather conditions ease on Monday.
Strong west/southwest winds will shift to the northwest Sunday night as a front passes. Winds behind that front will be out of the northwest at 45 to 60 MPH. Humidity values will not increase much and will remain below 20 percent for most of the night.
If a fire moves 15 miles northeast tomorrow the south/east flanks of that fire become the ‘head’ when winds shift to the northwest tomorrow night. That means a 15-mile long fire front moving south/southeast. These conditions are extremely dangerous for firefighters.
These wind-shift situations are ‘widow makers’ and are seriously stressed during fire events. Humidity values will not recover tomorrow night. Fire danger will remain critical to extremely critical through the early morning hours on Monday.
The wildfire threat will decrease only slightly on Monday. Critical fire weather conditions are already forecast for the Permian Basin and Edwards Plateau. Very high to near-critical fire conditions are expected in the Texas Panhandle, West Texas, Big Country, Concho Valley, Hill Country, and South Texas.
A multi-day fire weather event is anticipated. The Texas Forest Service has already ordered assets to pre-deploy in the risk zones from other parts of Texas and the United States.