Category Archives: Fire Weather

Dangerous fire weather conditions / April 12-13, 2018

A dryline moved across western Oklahoma on Thursday (12th).  Behind the dryline, temperatures reached 100+ degrees, while humidity dropped to well below 10%.  In fact, some humidity values dropped as low as 4% which is about as low as you will ever find them in the main body of Oklahoma.   Hot and dry conditions combined with southwest winds gusting to between 40 and 55 mph caused the fire danger to reach extreme levels.

There were several wildfires that developed, and three of these became very large.  Fires covering the largest areas were located in northwest Roger Mills County – north of Woodward – and in Dewey County.  The Dewey County fire became the largest, stretching nearly 30 miles by late evening.

Hot spots detected by GOES East satellite.

Hot spots detected by GOES East satellite.

This is a large download, but an excellent presentation of the fires as seen by satellite:  LINK

I drove to the Dewey County fire and witnessed some incredible fire behavior.  A few images from the trip:

Looking west from 3 miles south of Taloga.

Looking west from 3 miles south of Taloga.

Fire danger will remain extreme on Friday the 13th.  The dryline will push east of Oklahoma City by early afternoon.  Gusty southwest winds, low humidity and warm temperatures will cause fire danger to once again rise rapidly.  The large fires over northwest Oklahoma are not likely to be extinguished overnight, and will be capable of spreading out of control once conditions deteriorate on Friday.

Friday fire weather threat:

Friday, April 13, 2018:

Fires across western Oklahoma continued to rage on Friday.  The largest fire grew from the Dewey County fire complex that began on Thursday.

The wind in Okarche started the day from the southwest.  It shifted to the west and northwest during the afternoon and evening.  This brought ash and smoke into Okarche, reducing the visibility by sunset to around one mile.

Saturday, April 14, 2018:

The “Rhea Fire” in Dewey County continues to burn out of control on its southeast flank, with an active head approaching northeast Custer County.   It has been a very windy day across Oklahoma with northwest winds gusting to between 45 and 60 mph.  The peak wind in Cheyenne has been 58 mph, and in Okarche, 57 mph.  If the day ended at 4 pm, the average wind speed of 25 mph in Okarche would be our highest of record.  The wind will be falling off the remainder of the day, so the average will be less.

Humidity values have improved over those of Thursday and Friday, but remain low enough (around 30% at the fire ground) to cause problems.

At an estimated 240,000 acres burned, this is one of the largest fires ever recorded in Oklahoma.  It has grown considerably since that estimation, and has the chance to become one of the top ten largest fires recorded in the Southern Plains.





Oklahoma Wildfires – March 6, 2018

Strong northwest winds developed across Oklahoma during the late morning hours of March 6th.  The wind combined with very dry air caused fire danger to reach extreme levels, and numerous fires broke out across the state.  In Okarche, the peak wind reached 53 mph.

Heat from fires stood out quite well on GOES-East, infrared satellite imagery, and visible imagery showed numerous smoke plumes by early evening.  The most intense burning occurred in Texas, Ellis, Woods and Osage counties.

Smoke from a fire in Woods County spread across Okarche and into the OKC metro area.  Here is a link to time lapse video from Okarche which showed the arrival of the smoke:


*** Dangerous fire weather conditions possible Sunday ***

A strong upper storm system will move from the Rockies northeastward across the Plains on Sunday (January 21).  The surface reflection of this system will be a deep low pressure area that is expected to move from the Oklahoma Panhandle to eastern Kansas during the day.  A dryline will push quickly eastward across western and central Oklahoma, and a cold front will be moving south across the High Plains.

Dormant vegetation and increasing drought have resulted in the potential for rapid fire spread.  This will be aggravated to the west of the dryline on Sunday where southwest winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph will exist.  In addition, low humidity values of 10 to 20 percent will increase the potential for wildfires.

Southwest Oklahoma is most likely to see the combination of conditions that would allow for the dangerous and rapid spread of fire.  However, critical fire weather conditions may extend northeastward toward the I-35 corridor of the state as well.

Dangerous fire weather on Thursday

Fire danger will become extreme across western Oklahoma and the Panhandle on Thursday afternoon (23rd).  This is part of a larger area of concern that extends from southwest Kansas to eastern New Mexico.

Deep low pressure will be organizing Thursday morning over southeast Colorado.  This low will track eastward across Kansas during the afternoon, while the associated dryline makes its way across western Oklahoma.  To the west of the dryline, the wind will be gusting out of the west southwest at speeds of over 40 mph.  Humidity values will be dropping to less than 15 percent.  The combination of low humidity, strong wind, and dormant vegetation will result in very high to extreme levels of fire danger.

While the dryline is likely to make it to central sections of the state, humidity values won’t fall quite as far thanks to recent heavy rainfall.

The area that saw the greatest rainfall was generally east of a line from Altus to Clinton to Cherokee.  This doesn’t mean that there won’t be at least elevated fire weather concerns where the heavy rain fell.  It has been over 72 hours since the rainfall and dormant vegetation has had a chance to dry out.  Muddy conditions will also create problems for firefighting apparatus attempting to gain access to fields.  This delay can result in further fire spread.

By evening, a strong cold front will begin to move quickly southeastward from Kansas.  Behind the front, the wind will shift to the northwest between 30 and 40 mph which could create problems for firefighters working at ongoing fires.


Dangerous Fire Weather Conditions Thursday

A strong upper storm system will be moving across the Plains and Midwest today (Thursday) and Friday.  The storm will be producing heavy snow from the Rockies to the Central and Northern Plains and Midwest, with blizzard conditions expected on Friday in portions of South Dakota and Minnesota.

By this evening, low pressure will be located in Kansas, and a dryline will extend southward across northwest Oklahoma and eastern portions of the Texas Panhandle.  To the west of the dryline, humidity levels will drop well below 15 percent this afternoon.  Meanwhile, strong west southwest winds will develop with some gusts to between 50 and 60 mph across the Panhandle.  All of this will result in very high fire danger this afternoon and early evening across the Panhandle and far northwest Oklahoma.  Red Flag Warnings are in effect for the Panhandle and far northwest, as well as adjacent areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Texas.

Fire Danger on the rise…

Strong mid-level flow will extend from the west coast to the Central Plains through the start of the week.  In response, surface low pressure will deepen to the north and northwest of the state.  A tight pressure gradient will result in increased southwest winds across Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday.

While most of the main body of Oklahoma will hold on to low level moisture (higher humidity), very dry air will be spreading eastward across New Mexico and West Texas.  Humidity is likely to drop below 15 percent across the panhandle on Sunday, and across the Panhandle and far northwest Oklahoma on Monday.

The combination of limited recent rainfall, above average temperatures, low humidity and vegetation that is becoming dormant will lead to very high fire danger.

High fire danger Wednesday

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Fire danger will become elevated across the entire state during the morning and afternoon hours on Wednesday.  Very high fire danger levels will likely be seen across much of central and western Oklahoma.

A cold front is moving across the state and will be well southeast of Oklahoma by Wednesday afternoon.  Behind the front, the air will be dry and strong northwest winds will be gusting to between 35 and 45 mph.  Across western Oklahoma, afternoon humidity will drop to less than 20 percent.  Across central Oklahoma, humidity will drop to less than 30 percent.  The combination of strong winds and dry air will once again create conditions favorable for rapid fire spread.

The threat will decrease during the evening hours as winds rapidly weaken.

Major fire in Woodward county

3:51 pm 4/5/16

A large fire started north of Woodward around 1 pm this afternoon.  It is burning out of control – moving northward near the Harper/Woodward county line.  This fire will likely not be able to be brought under control until later this evening, and may begin to spread east and southeast after a cold front passes the area between 9 and 11 pm.

Humidity in the fire area is currently between 15 and 18 percent… southwest winds have been gusting to over 50 mph.

Fire Danger – Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Deep low pressure will be organizing over western Kansas on Tuesday.  By afternoon, strong south and southwest winds will be blowing across the state with gusts to over 50 mph possible – especially across northern and western Oklahoma.  Humidity over the west and Panhandle will drop to near 10 percent, while humidity over central Oklahoma drops to between 20 and 30 percent.  The combination of dry air and high winds will result in yet another day of high fire danger.  Dangerous fire weather conditions will be found over western Oklahoma and the Panhandle.  In these areas, uncontrolled fires may not be able to be brought back under control until conditions improve in the evening.

Fire danger / Sunday, April 3, 2016

A weak cold front will be approaching the Panhandle during the mid afternoon on Sunday.  In advance of this front, increasing warm southwest winds will be gusting to between 30 and 40 mph across the state.  Meanwhile, humidity will remain low.  Across the Panhandle and far western sections of the state, humidity will drop to less than 20 percent.  Elsewhere, humidity near or less than 30 percent is likely.  The combination will result in elevated or high fire danger across the region.  A Fire Weather Watch is in effect for much of northwest Oklahoma and central Kansas.  Red Flag Warnings will likely be needed for some of this area by Sunday morning.