Elevated wildfire danger returns to Central Texas Wednesday
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Although our next cold front, arriving Wednesday, could drop a bit of rain, the weather it leaves in it’s wake will cause the wildland and grass fire danger to increase in parts of Central Texas Wednesday.
A fire weather watch is in place for Hamilton, Bosque, Mills, San Saba, and Lampasas Counties from 12 PM Wednesday through 8 PM. The fire weather watch will likely be upgraded to a red flag warning tomorrow, meaning that critical fire danger conditions are in place.
It’s HIGHLY discouraged for anyone to do outdoor burning Wednesday midday and afternoon despite a lack of burn bans in place. The only county with a burn ban in our area is San Saba County.
All wildfire ingredients will be in place
Whenever we talk about wildland fires and grass fires, we’re really talking about a combination of a few different ingredients coming together (much like with severe storms, winter storms, etc.). Wildfires need warm temperatures, dry ground, low humidity, and strong winds to grow and thrive and all four of those requirements will be around behind Wednesday’s front.
Wednesday’s cold front likely kicks up scattered showers and even a few storms after 3 AM, but the approaching front will clear skies and end the rain west of I-35 by 9 AM and potentially even earlier.
Wednesday’s front has it’s origins in the Pacific Ocean, as opposed to in Canada, so the airmass immediately following the front is more desert-like than “tundra-like”. The front’s strong westerly winds, gusting between 20 and 30 MPH, acts to pull dry air from West Texas in. Dry air heats and cools more quickly than humid air, so the return of morning sunshine and west winds means temperatures should quickly rebound from the 50s and low 60s into at least the mid-70s by the afternoon.
The dry air from West Texas will also cause relative humidity values to tank. We’ll start out the morning ahead of the front with relative humidity values greater than 90%, but the extremely dry air in combination with the warming temperatures will send afternoon relative humidity values to near 10%. A relative humidity of around 10% with high temperatures in the mid-70s roughly translates to a dew point in the teens.
The wildfire ingredient we all know about is the overall lack of precipitation Central Texas has been seeing for over a year now. Cities and towns near and east of I-35 have been faring a bit better in the rainfall department, but cities and towns west of I-35 and especially west of Highway 281 have been rain-starved. The latest drought monitor, updated January 12th, shows all locations under the Fire Weather Watch with between moderate drought to extreme drought conditions. Even if morning rain falls, the exceptionally dry air and rainfall totals below a tenth-inch will not make much of any impact on the dry ground.
Northerly winds and cooler temperatures arriving Wednesday night will bring the fire weather danger to a close for the foreseeable future. We’ll need a lot more rain over the coming months otherwise we’ll be talking about an elevated fire danger risk with some frequency as we head into spring and eventually summer.
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