Briefs

Weather service warns of ‘dire’ fire risk today, citing high winds and drought

By: - April 22, 2022 1:24 pm

Projected peak wind gusts in New Mexico on Friday, per the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque issued a special warning Friday and through the weekend about fire risk, citing a perfect storm of weather conditions amid a climate-change-caused drought. 

“We have a dire and very dangerous weather situation on our hands today,” said Todd Shoemake, an NWS meteorologist, during a briefing Friday morning

Winds across northern two-thirds of New Mexico will reach 60 to 70 mph, with s

ome gusts as high as 80 mph. That could cause existing or new forest fires to spread “rapidly and get out of control,” Shoemake said. 

Combine those winds with the exceptionally low humidity, high temperatures and unstable conditions, Shoemake said, and you have extreme and potentially catastrophic fire weather. 

He urged residents to avoid outdoor burning, using outdoor power equipment and parking in tall grass. 

“Please exhibit a lot of caution out there today,” he said. 

High winds are expected Saturday, as well. 

The state’s forestry division also announced a ban Friday on smoking, campfires and fireworks in state forests. 

The scary forecast comes amid an already damaging fire season in New Mexico. There are at least six wildfires burning thousands of acres in the state as of Friday, according to NMFireInfo.com. Those include three fires around Santa Fe that have so far burned more than 31,000 acres, plus three in southern New Mexico that have burned about 8,500 acres. 

Meteorologists in Colorado sounded a similarly ominous warning

This year’s forest fire season has been “above average,” according to the National Weather Service, with 19,774 counted so far this year. The 10-year average is 13,720.

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard. Along the way, he's won several state and national awards for his reporting, including for an exposé on a cult-like Alcoholics Anonymous group and a feature on an Upstate New York militia member who died of COVID-19. He's thrilled to be back home in New Mexico, where he works to tell stories that resonate and make an impact.

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