By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 20,2017, 2:23:25PM,EDT
A storm approaching the central U.S. will exacerbate the wildfire threat over the Plains and eastern slopes of the Rockies before dousing the area later this week.After moving out of the Rockies, the storm will intensify over the Plains prior to the end of the week.
Along with drawing hot, dry air out of Mexico, strong south to southwest winds will increase the wildfire threat across the region by quickly spreading any small fire that breaks out over the southern and central High Plains.
“Temperatures will remain 10-20 degrees above average in these areas with very dry air and gusty winds,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sodja.
Large portions of the Desert Southwest and southern and central Plains will face days of record-breaking high temperatures ahead of this system.
"The wildfire danger will ramp up on Wednesday with the worst conditions likely on Thursday," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
The worst conditions will be from western Texas and southeastern New Mexico to eastern Colorado.
Multiple wildfires have already caused problems this week throughout the Plains. The Sunshine Fire near Boulder, Colorado, has forced the evacuation of 426 homes and is currently 80 percent contained as of noon on Monday, according to local officials.
Another wildfire near Sioux City, Iowa, impacted travel along Interstate 29 during Monday morning.
Areas impacted by wildfires in western Kansas and Oklahoma in early March are still under moderate to extreme drought conditions, and will again be under a high fire threat.
Residents should be mindful of any fire-related restrictions. Be sure to properly extinguish cigarettes and never leave outdoor grills unattended when in use. Avoid parking on high brush and fallen leaves as the hot exhaust can be enough to start a fire.
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Farther to the east, sufficient rainfall of late will make for a less-extreme fire threat.
Eastern Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma will experience a cooldown with some spotty showers early in the week, Sodja explained.
“This will also be accompanied by more moist air, so the greatest fire threat will remain west of these areas, though gusty winds will exacerbate existing fires,” Sodja said.
Luckily, the end of the hot and dry weather is in the forecast for drought-afflicted areas.
“More substantial relief will arrive for the southern and central Plains by Friday,” said Sodja.
As the High Plains storm drags a cold front through the region late on Thursday, showers and potentially severe thunderstorms will develop.
The potential for downpours as well as the arrival of cooler air will combine to significantly lessen the fire threat by the weekend.
As the area of rain and thunderstorm development tracks eastward into the weekend, drought areas across the Southeast can expect significant relief as well.