Heat spell in February triggers warnings of wildfire conditions
Parts of central U.S. will feel more like summer than winter on Thursday, with possibly record-breaking high temperatures.
Before basking in that 80-degree Colorado weather, there’s a downside.
The higher temperatures, combined with powerful, gusty winds are expected to create an extreme potential for fire in a swath covering eastern Colorado, the Texas panhandle as well as parts of Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
In the affected areas, the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning, which advises extreme caution about open flames.
About 10 million people will be under red flag and high wind warnings.
The weather service cautioned people against burning outside, as fires could get out of control due to possible strong winds up to 40 miles per hour. Also, conditions are very dry.
L.A. heat wave
The heat spell in the central and southern plains follows a similar pattern that struck the West earlier this week as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix all broke records for high temperatures. On Wednesday, Phoenix recorded 91 degrees — and it’s only February.
That high pressure and warm air appear to have migrated eastward. The areas affected by warmer weather will include cities like Amarillo, Texas, Boulder, Colorado, and Wichita, Kansas with temperatures expected to be about 15 to 35 degrees above the norm.
In parts of Colorado, which is well known for its snow and ski slopes, it will probably feel more like May. Denver is expected to break its high temperature record set in 1930 with a forecast of 73 degrees.
Snow at ski resorts is not expected to melt because it usually takes about three or more days of 50 degree weather to get substantial melting, the CNN weather center said.
So far, 2016 has proven to be a hot year. NASA called January the warmest month ever observed on Earth when looking at how much the temperature departed from its base line.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called it the second warmest month in terms of how much it deviated from the average for the month. December 2015 took first place.
Regardless of the different assessments by the U.S. agencies, it was an abnormally warm month.