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Red Flag Fire Warnings/Wind Advisories

Various offices of the National Weather Service have issued both Red Flag Fire Warnings and Wind Advisories or Lake Wind Advisories for some counties in their areas of responsibility for today.

Under Red Flag Fire Warnings, a combination of high winds, low relative humidity values and (sometimes) warm temperatures along with dry dead and/or dormant vegetation are forecast to occur during a specific part of the day. The warm temperatures aren't as important of a part of the equation (Red Flag Fire Warnings can occur even on bitterly cold days) except to the firefighters in terms of making firefighting more dangerous to them because they get hotter and dehydrate more quickly on hotter days. Any fires that do start under these conditions can move incredibly quickly and can be harmful not only to property but also potentially deadly for humans and animals.

With the Wind Advisories and Lake Wind Advisories the main issues will be strong winds and the dangers they bring.

Normally, when we have a day like this, I like to remind everyone that these sorts of winds are very hard on young seedlings and can wind burn them enough to kill them in a fairly brief period of time. I imagine that none of us have young seedlings growing outside in flats yet, so instead I'd just like to remind all of us that days like this can be dangerous. High winds can bring down trees and power lines, and any fires that start can spread quickly. If you have overwintering plants indoors that you want to set outside in the warm, sunny weather today, you might want to place them somewhere near a structure that will shield them from the worst winds because those indoor plants can windburn too while they are outside soaking up some sunlight.

If a wildfire starts in your area, stay tuned to local media for evacuation information, and be prepared to leave in a hurry. It is kind of early in the winter for us to have a day like this....but we get whatever weather we get, so all we can do is be prepared to deal with it.

Finally, you do not have to be in an area with a Red Flag Fire Warning to be at risk of having a wildfire occurring near you. If you are in a county with any sort of wind advisory, your risk of wildfire at this time of year remains-elevated--it just isn't quite high enough to rise to the level required for a Red Flag Fire Warning to be issued. Sometimes, when you have a wildfire in your area and evacuations are occurring, IF your local emergency management officials request it, the NWS will sound the alert tone on your all-hazards/weather radio to alert you to the evacuation.

In recent years, many of us have had far more experience with wildfires than we'd like.

In our county, our two worst wildfires in recent history (in 2013) did not occur on Red Flag Fire Warning days. They occurred on days when the winds were blowing "only" in the high 20s and gusting into the 30s, which is exactly the wind speeds forecast for our county today.

Please stay safe and aware everybody!


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