Dry Weather Over Next 7 Days. What Does This Mean For Fall Wildfire Season?

Good Tuesday Morning.  I hope your week got off to a great start and today goes even better!  Weather wise today will be much of the same as the last few.  A few high passing clouds from Hurricane Maria and it will be breezy.  Winds will be NE from 10-15mph.  It will continue to be humid though.  High temps today will be in the low to mid 80's.  With a NE breeze it should feel comfortable but stay hydrated.

Maria is 210 Miles ESE of Cape Hatteras NC, moving North and weakening slowly.  Winds this morning are down to 75mph and Maria could be downgraded to a tropical storm by Wednesday.  The approaching cold front will move through our area on Wednesday Afternoon and sets the stage for a beautiful weekend.  We are running about 5 degrees above normal right now with high temps.  By Thursday though high temps will run about 3-5 degrees below normal, with highs topping out in the mid 70's.  Those temps will last through the weekend too and its going to be dry.  Earlier this week models indicated that low pressure could develop over Florida along what is the old remnant front that moves though here on Wednesday.  However that doesn't look like it will happen now and our area will remain dry. 

There is some talk starting about a drought developing and us getting back into the situation that we were last fall with wildfire risk . Right now I don't see this happening.  It looks like this fall fire season will feature about normal fire activity.  Here is why.  Our KBDI (Keetch-Byrum Drought Index) is much lower now coming out of summer with an exception noted in Central North Carolina.  Those areas missed out on most of the rain from Hurricane Irma as she passed to the SW.  There is an area of higher KBDI readings from North of Greensboro, to Salisbury, down to Rockingham, over to Fort Bragg, North to Chapel Hill, and Oxford NC.  KBDI is an index that we use to determine wildfire potential.  It is based on a daily water balance, where the drought factor is balanced with precipitation and soil moisture.  Soil can generally hold 8.00 inches of water at any given point.  KBDI ranges from 0-800.  0 indicates no moisture depletion, and 800 represents 100% dry conditions.  KBDI measures the amount of precipitation necessary to return the soil to full moisture capacity. So for example lets say our KBDI is 100.  That means it would take 1.00 inch of rainfall to bring the soil moisture up to full moisture capacity.   Today our KBDI values are in good shape across our forecast area.  Lets compare where we are now to where we were last year using our 4 RAWS sites in our viewing area.

Taylorsville Tower (Near Downtown Taylorsville):  On September 26 2016 the KBDI Value was 620.  Today, September 26, 2017 that KBDI is at 150.  In the last 3 days there has been .38 inches of rainfall and in the last 30 days this station has received 7.15 inches of rain.

Taylorsville (Near Emerald Hollow Mine):  On September 26, 2016 the KBDI value was 648.  Today, September 26, 2017 it is at 319.  In the last 30 days this station has received 3.88 inches of rainfall.  Over the last 60 days this station has received 6.86 inches of rainfall.

McDowell (221 North of Toms Creek Rd):  On September 26, 2016 the KBDI value was 471. Today, September 26, 2017 it is at 192.  In the last 3 days there has been .17 inches of rainfall and in the last 30 days there has been 5.38 inches of rainfall.

Rutherford (Near Gilkey):  On September 26, 2016 the KBDI value was 698.  Today, September 26, 2017 the KBDI value is 219.  In the last 30 days this station has received 5.41 inches of rain.

Lincoln (Near Lowesville):  On September 26, 2016 the KBDI value was 523.  Today, September 26, 2017 the KBDI value is 203.  In the last 30 days this station has received 5.81 inches and in the last 60 days has received 11.06 inches of rainfall.

Now lets look at the highest KBDI reading in North Carolina.  This is the Horseshoe House Station located just South of Siler City NC.  On September 26, 2016 the KBDI value was 472 and today September 25, 2017 it is at 586.  In the last 30 days this station has received 2.49 inches of rain and in the last 60 days it received 5.46 inches of rain.

You can see that Central NC missing out on Irma's rainfall has impacted their drought and they are in abnormally dry conditions.  All of our coverage area though is in good shape.  As we move through the next week of no rainfall of course these numbers will creep up.  I doubt they get to critical levels that they were last year though.  It looks like another wet period going out two weeks, but of course that could change. This fire season will likely see normal fire activity meaning that a few controlled burns could escape containment but our coverage area shouldn't see large wildfires this year.  There is slightly higher potential of wildfires across Central North Carolina where those KBDI Values are a little elevated.  Many of the factors that we look at to project wildfire activity, even in central North Carolina, are not alarming.  So summing up we do not anticipate a huge Fall fire season in Western North Carolina like we had last year. 

Enjoy your day!

 

Chris White

Chief Meteorologist

 

Current KBDI readings across Western North Carolina

Current KBDI readings across Western North Carolina