A look at wild­fires burning in parched South­ern states

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thou­sands of fire­fight­ers are bat­tling wild­fires across the drought-stricken South with lit­tle in­di­ca­tion they’ll get help from the weather any time soon. Here’s a look at the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion:

What is the lat­est?

Adam Ron­deau, spokesman for the US For­est Ser­vice, said Mon­day that the agency is track­ing 33 wild­fires to­tal­ing about 80,000 acres across the South. Ron­deau said some fires are up to 75 per­cent con­tained, while oth­ers may be only 15 per­cent con­tained, de­pend­ing on ground con­di­tions and what’s fu­el­ing the fire. The largest are Ge­or­gia’s Rough Ridge fire, which has con­sumed 19,411 acres, and North Carolina’s Tel­lico fire, which cov­ers ap­prox­i­mately 13,676 acres. Other fires are be­ing re­ported in Ken­tucky, South Carolina and Ten­nessee. About 5,000 fed­eral, state and lo­cal fire­fight­ers are try­ing to knock the flames down. “With the dry con­di­tions as they are, this is a long-term re­sponse ef­fort,” Ron­deau said. “This isn’t go­ing to hap­pen in a cou­ple of days. We’re go­ing to be look­ing at weeks.”

What is drought sit­u­a­tion?

The US Drought Mon­i­tor re­ports that much of the South got pre­cip­i­ta­tion last week but not enough to quench wild­fires or re­plen­ish reser­voirs. Drought-stricken ar­eas of Alabama and Ge­or­gia recorded tem­per­a­tures up to 10 de­grees warmer than nor­mal and pre­cip­i­ta­tion at or near zero, according to the lat­est re­port filed Nov 8. The re­port said ab­nor­mal dry­ness and mod­er­ate drought ex­panded in South Carolina. There was also de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of drought con­di­tions in western North Carolina, while ab­nor­mally dry con­di­tions were re­ported in parts of western Vir­ginia and in the Florida Pan­han­dle. All of Ken­tucky is in mod­er­ate to se­vere drought, as is Ten­nessee ex­cept for its south­east­ern cor­ner, which shows ex­treme or ex­cep­tional drought.

Is there any re­lief?

Joshua Palmer, Na­tional Weather Ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist in Greenville-Spar­tan­burg, South Carolina, said there no sig­nif­i­cant rain has fallen across the fire-stricken South­east be­cause very few mois­ture-bear­ing sys­tems have come through the re­gion since late Au­gust. Palmer said that, since late Au­gust, what few weather sys­tems have come through have been very dry be­cause there hasn’t been a pro­longed pe­riod of mois­ture flow­ing from the ocean. The forecast pro­vides very lit­tle hope for the next two weeks, Palmer said. “We re­ally don’t see any sig­nif­i­cant change to that over­all con­cept where we have th­ese cold fronts come through. They change the wind, they change the tem­per­a­tures, they maybe dry us out in terms of dew points or rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity, but in terms of ac­tual rain­fall, they pro­duce very lit­tle,” Palmer said.

Will win­ter bring pre­cip­i­ta­tion?

Palmer said the out­look for the re­gion go­ing into win­ter calls for below-nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion, which he blames on La Nina and is ex­pected to per­sist into mid-win­ter. But he also says a pre­cise forecast is dif­fi­cult at this point. Typ­i­cally, he said, wide­spread rain­fall oc­curs in De­cem­ber, Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, but even with the cur­rent forecast, he isn’t rul­ing out the prospect that pre­cip­i­ta­tion will ar­rive. “The sig­nal is def­i­nitely mixed for our area,” Palmer said.

“We’re go­ing to re­main cau­tiously op­ti­mistic, but it is very dry and it’s not go­ing to get any bet­ter any time soon.” Palmer added that if the rains don’t come in the win­ter, big­ger prob­lems could de­velop head­ing into spring and sum­mer. “If we do not see any sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall or we see below nor­mal rain­fall this win­ter, then go­ing into the spring and sum­mer, the drought con­di­tions could intensify over the sum­mer next year as the rain­fall be­comes more scat­tered and wa­ter us­age in­creases,” he said.

HOW IS THE AIR QUAL­ITY?

The North Carolina Air Qual­ity Forecast Cen­ter listed 18 coun­ties in western North Carolina as hav­ing un­healthy air yes­ter­day. The lat­est forecast also said three more coun­ties in the ex­treme south­west cor­ner of the state were listed as very un­healthy and another 11 coun­ties were des­ig­nated as un­healthy for sen­si­tive groups. Another 22 coun­ties listed as good Mon­day were forecast to ex­pe­ri­ence mod­er­ate air qual­ity yes­ter­day. Di­vi­sion of Air Qual­ity me­te­o­rol­o­gist El­liot Tardif said winds com­ing out of the west or west-north­west Tues­day is ex­pected to push smoke to the east. —AP

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