Strong gusty winds on Thursday may result in favorable conditions for the rapid spread of fires, especially across the Northern and Central Shenandoah Valley, and Allegheny Highlands. The latest model guidance suggests wind gusts as high as 50 mph, along with relative humidity as low as 25 percent, and fuel moisture as low as 10 percent. For this reason, High Wind Watches and Fire Weather Watches are in effect across the Northern and Central Shenandoah Valley.
As of last week, the latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows moderate drought conditions across portions of Southern and Eastern Virginia. With no measurable rainfall since last week’s update, we expect abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions to continue expanding north and west. The next update will be released later this morning.
The overall weather pattern during the next two to three weeks will be a “zonal flow,” or mild air from the Pacific that moves west to east across the Eastern United States. There will be some spikes in the jetstream with some waves of precipitation make it as far south and east as the Ohio River Valley and Mid-Atlantic Region. However, with high pressure across the Central and Western United States expanding eastward over the next few weeks, we do not expect any big storms. The bulk of the precipitation will remain well north of our region, which puts us in a very dangerous situation for fire conditions.
While there are no outdoor restrictions (yet) across Virginia, it’s possible that outdoor burning could be restricted or banned if drought conditions continue. We’ve already seen the photos and damage of what I fire can do at Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. It’s very important that we all take steps to prevent fires.
When camping, make sure your fire is “dead out” and cold to the touch before leaving your campsite or going to bed. Don’t drive or park on dry grass as hot exhaust pipes or sparks can start a fire. Also, NEVER discard cigarette butts on the ground or in vegetation. Fully extinguish cigarette butts before throwing them away. Being mindful by taking these steps can make all the difference!