Dry, warm fall is fire danger; no relief seen

Dry, warm fall is fire danger; no relief seen

Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 9:00 pm

By RANDALL
DICKERSON
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — It’s dry from the delta to the mountains. And no relief is coming for the conditions that have persisted since late summer across Tennessee, but the fall and winter forecast looks wetter, with temperature above normal.
Rainfall in Chattanooga is off 12.57 inches below a normal year to date, records show, while other parts of the state don’t have such dramatic statistics.
“Chattanooga hasn’t had a trace (of rainfall) this month,” said Mary Black, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Morristown.
In West Tennessee, some local governments have banned outdoor burning and state officials started the fire permit season early. The rainfall deficit goes back a few months.
Union City did finally see some of the wet stuff fall from the sky Tuesday night, but the .68 inches dims in comparison to the nearly 22 inches the city is behind in rainfall from a year ago today. Before Tuesday, the last time the city received any rain was Sept. 26, when only .03 inches fell. Before that it was Sept. 15, Sept. 10, Sept. 9 and Sept. 7. The last date Union City recorded more than an inch of rain in a 24-hour period was July 11, when 2.32 inches fell. Before that, it was June 26 at 1.01 inches.
“It’s been since the middle of summer,” said Scott McNeil, an NWS meteorologist in Memphis. “There has been consistent upper level high pressure and, as a result, there are moderate to severe drought conditions in West Tennessee and eastern Arkansas, with rainfall well below normal.”
October is usually the driest month of the calendar across Tennessee, so any major relief isn’t likely soon.
In Nashville, forecasters were watching to see if the high reached 90 degrees Monday. It was expected to hit 89, but if it went one degree higher, it would set a record for the latest 90-degree reading in the city ever. An 89-degree reading would tie the record high for the date.
Mike Girodo, an NWS forecaster in Nashville, said there will be markedly cooler temperatures this week, but they won’t likely bring rain.
“It will be much cooler on Thursday,” Girodo said. “The weather will warm to the mid-70s by the weekend.”
The forecast was for cooler, but mostly clear, conditions statewide, ruled by high pressure. Some showers are possible in East Tennessee, but no significant rainfall is expected.
“It’s dry pretty much across the state,” said Tim Phelps, a spokesman for the Forestry Division of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, who listed flames from debris burning as the top cause of wildfires, with arson as the No. 2 reason.
Wildfires can also be sparked by farm equipment and all-terrain vehicles.
Campfires aren’t allowed in the backcountry of any state parks after 200 acres in Cumberland Trail State Park were scorched by wildfire last week.
The period during which burn permits are required usually begins Oct. 15 and lasts until May 15, but the requirement was pushed up to Oct. 8 in West Tennessee, Phelps said.
Forestry Division records show that, as of Oct. 7, there had been 1,236 wildfires this year in Tennessee, burning 16,486 acres.
Looking ahead, the winter will be a “La Nina” season, predicts the NWS.
“La Nina tends to be warmer and wetter,” said McNeil. “We also tend to get our severe weather outbreaks (in those years).”

Published in The Messenger 10.13.10

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