February 15, 2011

Heat, Wind Increase Southern Fire Risk

The unseasonable warmth invading much of the eastern United States may be welcome to many, but to parts of the South, the heat is carrying a brush fire risk.

Red flag warnings were in effect for parts of Florida on Tuesday.

Red flag warnings indicate fire weather conditions, including low humidity, warm temperatures and breezy conditions.

Conditions over much of the Southeastern states range from abnormally dry to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Combine this with ongoing weather conditions and brush that has dried out over the winter months and you have prime brush fire conditions.

The biggest concern for brush fires will be the extremely dry air mass over the region the high pressure is bringing.

"An area of high pressure over the Ohio Valley will prevent more humid air from entering the South until at least midweek," said AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines.

As for Florida, Kines said an easterly flow will bring more humid air to the peninsula from the Atlantic Ocean, since high pressure systems rotate clockwise.

Although the high temperatures will continue through the week, the dry air mass will move out of the region as the week ends, lessening the dry air aspect of the fire risk.

However, dry brush will remain, temperatures will rise and winds will pick up again later in the week.

People are urged not to toss burning cigarettes out of their cars and to use caution with grills and outdoor power equipment that may throw sparks or ignite brush via hot exhaust.

Outdoor burning may be banned in some communities as a result of the tinder dry conditions.

By Gina Cherundolo, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer

Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed to the content of this story.

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