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HomeGeneralIntense Winds and Dry Conditions Fuel Critical Fire Threat in Central US

Intense Winds and Dry Conditions Fuel Critical Fire Threat in Central US

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A photo of the Texas wild fire
Source: 93_sarabia2393/X

Last weekend, intense winds blasted across the Central United States, aggravating the serious fire danger. This crisis resulted in traffic closures and power disruptions, affecting thousands in certain locations.

Low relative humidity and high winds have created an extreme fire weather threat in the western half of the Southern and Central Plains. This is the greatest risk level for fire weather.

Over 10 million people were under red flag warnings across much of the Plains, which stretched from border to border. The broad fire risk will continue through Sunday in sections of the Central and Southern Plains.

This risk is exacerbated by gusty, dry air and a persistent drought. The National Weather Service has cautioned that any fires that start will be difficult to control due to the high winds.

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On Saturday, firefighters in Oklahoma battled numerous wildfires across six counties, with gusts gusting up to 60 miles per hour. According to CNN station KOCO, aircraft were dispatched to help slow the fires on Saturday night.

One wildfire triggered temporary evacuation orders, and two firefighters suffered burn injuries while battling the flames. Woodward County Emergency Manager Matt Lehenbauer confirmed this to KOCO.

“Very dry conditions combined with these winds is leading to an environment favorable for wildfire growth, especially for western portions of the Southern Plains,” the weather service said.

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High wind advisories were in force from Colorado east of the Rockies to central Nebraska and Kansas until Sunday evening. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts as high as 95 mph in Marshall and 93 mph in Buckeye. According to the EPA, warnings were allowed to expire as winds lessened.

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Poweroutage.us reported that around 72,000 Colorado customers were without power as of Sunday night. Xcel Energy Colorado previously revealed plans to turn off power to a small number of customers in specific areas. The decision was made because of “the exceptionally high winds and the high risk of wind-driven wildfires.”

On Sunday, Xcel Energy announced that it had proactively turned off electricity to 55,000 customers on Saturday. High winds caused an additional 100,000 customers to lose power.

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Crews were analyzing the damage, but some households may not have power restored. This was until at least Monday, according to the company.

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“More than 600 miles of lines were proactively de-energized, and before the power is turned back on, our crews will need to visually inspect the lines to ensure it is safe to do so,” spokesperson Tyler Bryant said.

Wind gusts of more than 95 mph were reported over parts of the state on Saturday. While the National Weather Service reported that winds had dropped on Sunday, portions of the foothills continued to see gusts of up to 80 mph. Due to heavy winds, the Colorado Department of Transportation has closed some roads.

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