|Dry, Hot Weather, Winds Could Fuel Southwest Wildfires|
UPDATED 7:30 PM MST, May 23, 2012
UPDATED By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, James West
|Crews already battling wildfires in the Southwest won`t get any help from Mother Nature for the remainder of the work week. Scorching hot weather, gusty winds and dry air will make the perfect recipe for wildfires right into the holiday weekend. |
A cold front slowly inching south from the Great Basin will send a belt of gusty winds in the middle and upper-levels of the atmosphere through the Rockies and Southwest today. All the while sunshine will warm temperatures into the 70s and 80s in northern Arizona and New Mexico with more blistering triple digits in southern Arizona.
Relative humidity is forecast to dip to 6 to 14-percent in these same areas. When combined with the ongoing drought and some places like Flagstaff, Ariz., in a yearly precipitation deficit of 3.45 inches, the risk for wildfires increases substantially.
Widespread Red Flag Warnings are in effect through Friday for the Southwest and southern Rockies. This includes Phoenix and Albuquerque, N.M., and the Tonto National Forest. Red Flag warnings are issued when conditions are perfect for any fire to spread rapidly.
The risk for wildfires is so real the Storm Prediction Center has highlighted northern Arizona and New Mexico in an extreme critical threat. Outside of this zone, southern Utah and Colorado and for much of Arizona and New Mexico is in a critical threat area for wildfires.
When conditions are this ripe for wildfires, it`s best to not throw burning materials from cars, avoid outside burning and use caution when operating power tools outdoors.
The winds will also be a problem for motorists. Gusts to 40 mph could cause travel trouble on Interstates 10, 25 and 40.
The same weather pattern will remain intact through the remainder of the work week, causing the wildfire danger to remain high into the Memorial Day Holiday weekend.
This danger comes as crews continue to battle a wildfire in the Tonto National Forest just south of Payson, Ariz. The blaze is now 43-percent contained. Earlier this month, five wildfires in Arizona charred more than 9 square miles.
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