High Wind, Fire Weather Watch Issued for Wednesday

January 9, 2018

MIDLAND — A pair of weather-related watches were issued by the National Weather Service on Tuesday ahead of an anticipated day of high winds and potential fire danger on Wednesday.

A “High Wind Watch” and a “Fire Weather Watch” were issued by the Midland regional office of the NWS, as sustained winds of 20-to-35 mph  are anticipated to hit the South Plains, Permian Basin and southeastern New Mexico region on Wednesday.

“A powerful upper level storm system is forecast to track through West Texas and Southeast New Mexico on Wednesday,” said NWS forecasters on their Midland regional office’s website.  “Strong winds will be possible across southeast New Mexico and much of West Texas, arriving late Wednesday morning and lasting through Wednesday afternoon.”

The westerly winds could gust as high as 65 mph on Wednesday, according to forecasters.

“These winds could make driving difficult for motorists driving high profile vehicles such as campers, vans and tractor trailers,” said NWS officials.

A “High Wind Watch” means there is the potential for a hazardous high wind event.  Sustained winds of at least 40 mph, or gusts of 58 mph or stronger may occur.  Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.

The area’s “Fire Weather Watch” was issued as humidity levels are anticipated to be in the neighborhood of 15-to-20-percent on Wednesday, allowing for any fuel that may catch fire to burn without much atmospheric interference.

According to the NWS, a “Fire Weather Watch” means that critical fire weather conditions are forecast to occur. Locals are urged to monitor weather conditions for updated forecasts and possible Red Flag Warnings.

High’s on Wednesday are anticipated to be near 66 degrees, with early morning winds blowing from 5-to-15 mph before ramping up to the 30-to-40 mph range in the afternoon.

Areas of blowing dust are being anticipated with Wednesday’s wind event, according to NWS officials.

Wednesday evening, winds out of the west are anticipated to ramp back down to the 15-to-20 mph range out of the west, before turning out of the north after midnight. Gusts could reach as high as 25 mph, as the anticipated low is expected to be around the 40-degree mark.

North winds averaging between 15 and 25 mph are anticipated to grace the region on Thursday, as the high is expected to be around 46 degrees with the passage of a cold front through the region. Wind gusts could reach as high as 35 mph in the daytime hours on Thursday.

Gaines County residents, while not under an outdoor burn ban restriction, are reminded that weather conditions for any outdoor burning practices on Wednesday and Thursday are highly discouraged.

Gaines County’s current outdoor burning policies were implemented by Gaines County leaders in 2012 to regulate outdoor burning practices within the county’s boundaries.

Late last week, the Seminole Sentinel reported Gaines County was on the verge of falling under the “moderate drought” designation of the U.S. Drought Monitor. According to last Thursday’s drought monitor update, over 66-percent of Texas was listed as being under one form of drought designation by the monitor group, which is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In relation to Gaines County, a vast majority of the South Plains region, ranging from Yoakum-Terry-Lynn-Garza counties on the southern end up north into the Texas Panhandle region have fallen under the “moderate drought” designation over the past several weeks. A sizeable swath of land, spanning from Hockley County on the western edge to the Wichita Falls area has recently fallen under the “severe drought” designation.

Gaines County, in last week’s report, was listed as being “abnormally dry.” A new drought report from the four-agency group is anticipated to be released this Thursday.

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