MORE SEVERE WEATHER EXPECTED FOR PARTS OF THE CENTRAL U.S.
We’re in the middle of what is turning out to be a very active “full moon” lunar cycle. Another storm system moving in from the Rockies is forecast to bring damaging thunderstorms and even some tornado activity to parts of the central and southern Great Plains. The regions with the greatest risk include south-central Kansas southward into west-central Texas. Strong thunderstorms are also possible northward into the Corn Belt into Tuesday.
Additional storm systems are expected to bring more rain and thunderstorm activity, possibly severe for the rest of the week across the Great Plains and Corn Belt states. Strong thunderstorms may fire up again in the southern Great Plains by Thursday moving into the Corn Belt on Friday.
The “full moon” pattern of showers and thunderstorms may continue across the central U.S. into the Memorial Day weekend.
Elsewhere, there will be off-and-on rains in the Pacific Northwest throughout the week. The East Coast will be mostly dry this week with high temperatures warming into the 80s all the way northward into New England.
FIRE SEASON OUTLOOK
The first day of summer is less than a month away, which means that wildfire season is fast-approaching as well. The Inland Northwest suffered through one of the worst fire seasons, especially in terms of the number of blazes, in recorded history in 2015.
The majority of the western fires last year were in Alaska as approximately 5.2 million acres were burned. Only the 2004 season was worse when over 6.5 million acres went up in smoke. Normally, Alaska sees fires that claim about 800,000 acres each year.
Wildfires in southwestern Canada consumed over 700,000 acres in British Columbia in 2015. For this year, things are not looking much better for our friends to the north. The disastrous Fort McMurray fire in Alberta has consumed nearly 600,000 acres since it began in early May. This event is the worst disaster in Canada’s history as over 2,400 homes and buildings have been destroyed. Damage may exceed $9 billion. As of last week, this fire was still out of control.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in the U.S. burned a record 10.12 million acres in 2015. The previous record was 9.87 million acres set back in 2006. The top three fires in 2015 were in Alaska. The Galena, Tanana and Middle Yukon fires scorched over 1 million areas in that state. The fourth biggest fire in 2015 was Idaho’s Soda Fire which was located in the southwestern portion of the state. Over 279,000 acres were burned. The North Star Fire near Nespelem, Washington, burned about 218,000 acres and sent smoke across North Idaho and eastward to Colorado last August.
For 2016, there have been 17,433 fires reported through May 20. Last year, there were 18,544 blazes through the 20th of May. However, in 2015, approximately 361,000 acres went up in smoke through the middle of May. This year, nearly 1.5 million acres in the U.S. have burned. We’re already ahead of last year, but that does not mean it will be another record season. For example, in 2011, there were 25,189 fires that burned over 2.5 million acres from January 1 through May 13. By the end of 2011, over 8 million acres burned compared to an average of nearly 6.5 million acres.
In addition to the fires in Canada, there have been 2 blazes in Florida that consumed nearly 10,000 acres. One smaller fire in Minnesota burned almost a thousand acres and one large fire in Texas has burned 10,000 acres.
On May 1, the National Interagency Fire Center issued their National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for May through August. The areas with an above-average threat of wildfires this summer include Hawaii, Alaska, the Desert Southwest, Southern California and the Great Basin. Things could be very bad in 2016 for Southern California as extreme drought conditions still persist. The big El Nino rains never arrived as seasonal moisture totals were near 50 percent. The rest of the U.S. is forecast to have a near to below-normal threat of wildfires.
To the north, Canadian officials are forecasting relatively hot and dry weather from eastern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The drought in Alberta is now expected to worsen this summer, which will not help their fire situation.