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Elevated Wildfire Risk Returns To The Southern Plains

 
 

A rapid warmup, dry weather, and gusty winds will create a dangerous threat of wildfires from West Texas to Iowa this weekend.

 
 

February 29, 2024

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AccuWeather Global Weather Center – February 29, 2024

 

A heightened fire risk and challenging conditions for firefighters will return to the southern Plains this weekend, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

Rain and snow have provided fire crews with somewhat favorable conditions to fight and contain wildfires burning in the Texas Panhandle on Thursday, but dangerous conditions will quickly return.

“Firefighters are going to welcome all of that help from the atmosphere today, with the higher levels of moisture and reduced winds as compared to earlier in the week. That period of help is very brief,” warned AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter. “Grass and brush can dry up very quickly, that’s why we’re so concerned about the risks for fires to increase
once again.”

Gusty winds, low humidity levels and higher temperatures are forecast this weekend. The highest fire threat zone stretches across 11 states, from New Mexico to Iowa.

 

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Temperatures from Texas to the Great Lakes will feel more like mid-Spring weather, compared to the final days of winter. Several record high temperatures will be challenged on Saturday and Sunday.

“This is going to be a very dangerous setup again as we head into the weekend. Things are going to get downright dangerous again because of the high fire risk,” said AccuWeather Chief Broadcast Meteorologist Bernie Rayno. “The wildfires in the Texas Panhandle have been devastating. We’re warning you again, things are going to go downhill very fast in the southern Plains this weekend.”

 

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Massive wildfire sets new record

Fires burning across the Texas Panhandle have destroyed dozens of homes and other buildings this week. The Smokehouse Creek fire burned more than one million acres in 72 hours, scorching an area larger than the size of the state of Rhode Island.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire is now the largest fire in Texas history. Authorities said one woman died in the fire near Stinnett. The Texas A&M Forest Service raised their Wildland Fire Preparedness to Level 3, due to an increase in large wildfires and demand in resources across the Lone Star State.

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At least 56 wildfires have sparked across Texas since February 25, burning more than 1,256,000 acres.

AccuWeather meteorologists are warning residents and businesses to review their emergency and evacuation plans, so they are prepared if a fire breaks out or spreads near their location.

“People’s lives were changed in a matter of minutes as a fire storm enveloped their towns,” said Porter. “It grew from 40,000 acres to 200,000 acres in six hours with those gusty winds, spreading out those flames. Winds can really accelerate the fire spread and result in erratic fire behavior.  People in the impacted areas this weekend should take extra care to avoid any activities which could inadvertently start a small fire, such as any activity making a spark or welding that could quickly spread out of control, potentially leading to a disaster.”

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