April Showers Desperately Needed/Wanted
It’s the month known for showers so the title of this weekend’s blog may seem odd to those reading from distant lands. Indeed for Huntington transplants living in Florida you would be amazed at how since spring arrived, the rains have shut off.
So dry is it that in my neighborhood, folks are watering their plants and lawns. This week’s cold weather may have slowed the growth of the pansies, but it did not shut down their need for a healthy drink.
Here on Friday the 13th a mere eight one hundredths (.08”) of an inch of rain has fallen this month. That’s barely enough to settle the dust once or twice. In fact, the little league schedule is off to a fast start with no rain outs but plenty of dusty uniforms for moms and dads to wash when the kids come home.
The lack of April rains has complemented the hot, dry weather of March in a diabolical way of sorts. That’s because our woodlands have turned equally dry at the start of the spring fire season. This week alone more than a dozen brush fires ignited thanks to several carelessly lit matches. Blazes in Kanawha County proved especially problematic. Houses were threatened and the Mary Ingles grade school was shut down on Wednesday due to poor air quality from the smoke of the Cline Hollow fire near Campbell’s Creek.
While there is hope for a few ground dampening showers on Saturday, the fear is these cells will be too weak to soak the ground. If they do not muster much punch, then a windy, hot and sunny day on Sunday may provide the back drop for a rash of new fires.
Jeremy Jones is the Fire Specialist at the Milton Forestry Center. “If it turns windy and hot again on Sunday, any spark could set off a new brush fire”, he told me.
Jeremy also tells me that while this week’s flames were shooting 30-40 feet high, under true wildfire conditions (windy, hot weather with a tinderbox forest setting), those flames can climb as high as 100 feet tall.
So to summarize, we should get a ground dampening on Saturday but beware the hot, windy and sunny weather of Sunday. Best to put off all burning until soaking rains can saturate the forest beds.
Extra for Experts
One final word deals with the weather chart below. This is a look at the flow pattern at jet airplane level across our continent. Look at the upper left of the map (the Pacific Ocean near Alaska) then follow that pattern as it drops southeastward to California. This is resulting in rare April showers into California!
Now trace the flow as it winds its way into the Great Plains in the middle of the page. That fast flow (lines closer together means a faster wind at jet airplane level) will help to spawn severe thunderstorms and tornadoes again in America’s heartland on Saturday.
Now keep following the lines as they form a hill (ridge) into our region of Appalachia. That ridge has been persistent since mid March and may be signaling a hot and dry summer ahead. So all that money we saved on home heating costs this winter may well go into cooling our homes this summer.