Spring wildfire outlook after recent snowfall

Weather

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Tuesday’s snowfall may keep the wildfire threat away for a few days but not for long.

The City of Amarillo saw one to three inches of snowfall and up to half a foot in some areas near Canyon but Chief Meteorologist John Harris said the area is still quite dry.

“Unfortunately, that will not help us out that long into the future,” Harris said. “It only takes one or two days of dry down-sloping westerly winds to compress that moisture evaporated, if you will, and here we go again with that wildfire threat.”

Michael Gittinger, a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service said we can expect a normal wildfire year.

“There’s nothing to suggest that we’re going to have a really bad season, but normal wildfire seasons have bad days,” Gittinger said. “That’s the key so we could have some bad days in there because it only takes a short period of time to dry out grasses and have their weather systems work themselves to be a bad day but the overall pattern does not suggest a bad season.”

Gittinger said we saw a drier year in 2018, rainfall totals were normal overall in 2019, and this year we can expect the same.

“I don’t know if there’s any real trend to see there. It’s kind of normal ups and downs of life in the panhandle and the weather,” Gittinger added.

Harris said February and March are the worst months of the year for wildfires across the Panhandle—and most wildfires are manmade.

“Then if you have a spark from like maybe a power line being blown over, or somebody’s throwing a cigarette out of their car, all of a sudden you have a wildfire,” Harris continued. “So, we still are kind of where we have been. But it’s nice to have the moisture around and it does help out for a while but we need a lot more.”

The NWS urges everyone to pay attention to fire weather warnings.

Harris said the wildfire threat will be at its worst until mid-spring. Until then, we will hope for more precipitation to keep fire fuel values low.

Gittinger said everyone should be especially careful about wildfire prevention on windy days.


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