By Katie Fehlinger
Sometimes you can’t take a forecast at face value. Look at today: Sunny and breezy, high 59 — a seasonably calm and pleasant day, right? Not so fast.
WHAT’S A RED FLAG WARNING?
The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings for most of the Delaware Valley until 8pm this evening. In other words, we’re at an elevated risk of wildfires.
This particular warning is quite common in the desert southwest and places like Florida where long stretches of dry or arid weather are typical and can exacerbate the fire threat. Here in the Northeast, we tend to have a good ebb and flow of precipitation which mitigates our risk so Red Flags are not as common.
This is where climate as opposed to everyday weather starts to come into play … specifically the lack of recent precipitation. Consider this: since March 1, 2012 only 1.12″ of rain has fallen in Philadelphia. That’s over 3″ shy of the norm. Perhaps more staggering, Philly’s picked up only 5.55″ of rain so far in 2012, about half of what we typically see by this point. That leaves us with a significant shortfall and very dry vegetation.
Combine that dry-as-tinder vegetation with today’s forecasted stiff breeze and gusts up to 30mph, plus humidity as low as 20 percent … that’s a natural “powder keg” ready to catch fire.
Simply put, be very cautious with any open flame today. Be EXTRA careful with cigarette butts and use the proper receptacles. The sunshine may give you the itch to grill outdoors or start up the fire pit. But any little spark can expand and become uncontrollable very quickly. Make sure someone’s always attending to the flames.