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NOAA WARNS WILDFIRE THREAT WON'T SOON BE EXTINGUISHED

NOAA image of U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook through March 2006.Jan. 3, 2006 The southern Plains will remain at risk of wildfires through the first week of the New Year as NOAA predicts mild temperatures, low humidity and strong winds in combination with drought-stricken land. (Click NOAA image for larger view of U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook through March 2006. Click here for latest outlook. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"Tuesday is a potentially very dangerous situation with near record highs, extremely low humidity and very strong winds with gusts over 40 mph. Slightly cooler temperatures with dry northwesterly winds are expected Wednesday through Friday. It also appears the fire threat will increase significantly again this weekend," said Phillip Bothwell, fire weather expert for the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. "People in the southern Plains must be mindful of the dry conditions by ensuring cigarettes are properly extinguished and honoring local burn bans. We are dealing with extreme conditions that endanger both life and property."

Factors fueling these winter fires include:

  • Drought. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, issued by NOAA and partner agencies on Thursday, shows the driest conditions in the nation lie across central and eastern Texas, central and eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas where the drought is described as "severe" to "exceptional."
  • Dry fuels. Grass and other vegetation have been starved of rain and snow. No precipitation is forecast through the weekend and the coming winter months also may not be helpful. Drought in the southern Plains is forecast to "persist or intensify" through March, according to the latest U.S. drought outlook by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.
  • Mild temperatures. While temperatures will cool somewhat by midweek from their recent record levels, forecast highs after Tuesday will remain 5 to 10 degrees above average into Friday with even warmer temperatures for the weekend.
  • Low humidity. Dry air will be transported by westerly and northwesterly winds from the central and southern Rockies.
  • Wind. Breezy conditions and gusty winds help to fan existing flames.

Residents of the southern Plains are urged to stay up-to-date on this elevated fire weather situation through forecasts and special statements from NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices and the two-day fire outlooks from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.

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Relevant Web Sites
NOAA National Weather Service

NOAA Storm Prediction Center Fire Weather Forecasts

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

NOAA Fire Weather Information Center

NOAA Drought Information Center

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 134