Elsewhere in Weather News: May 19th, 2012

Strong Winds, Wildfires Rage On

South-eastern Manitoba has seen its fair share of fires burning this spring but it wasn’t comparable to the conditions experienced this past week in Arizona and Colorado where wildfires are burning out of control across the states. Fanned by very strong southwesterly winds associated with a ridge of high pressure that is strengthening over the west coast, the fires quickly grew out of control in Arizona. Wind gusts of 80km/h were recorded in the area which easily spread the flames and expanded the fire by blowing embers, making it nearly impossible for firefighters to contain the blazes. In addition to the strong winds, both states have been impacted by severe droughts this month; especially Arizona where soil moisture content is bone dry.

Fire map

Map showing in red where the largest fires are. (Map provided by Google Maps.)

As of Friday morning, one dangerous fire was burning in north-eastern Colorado; a couple in the Tonto National Forest just north-east of Phoenix, Arizona; and other smaller fires had flared up in New Mexico and Utah.

As for the Colorado fire, conditions will improve slightly as thundershowers are in the forecast and will bring rain however cloud-to-ground lightning from the storm could potentially spark more fires. The Colorado fire was 11% contained as of Friday afternoon; it consumed more than seven thousand acres and has forced a couple dozen people out of their homes.

Colorado wildfire

Image of the large Colorado fire burning just west of Fort Collins. (Source: Denver Post)

For the Arizona fire it’s a different story though – as a big ridge builds over the region, relative humidity will continue to drop dramatically, reaching values in the low teens to single digits. This, combined with extremely hot temperatures of around 40°C, will surely cause hardship and less than ideal conditions for firefighters as they work feverishly to battle the flames. The Arizona fire was 5% contained and 80 homeowners were on alert to get ready to leave on Friday afternoon. With the tinder-dry conditions persisting in the area for the next couple of days, residents must pay attention to every slight fire danger they may pose during everyday activities –whether it’s having a barbeque or using their ATV in the wilderness.

Arizona wildfire

Cloud of smoke coming from the couple wildfires in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest. (Source: MSNBC)