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Strong winds and high fire danger for the end of the week

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:54 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 3:51 PM EST
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High winds are on the way for Thursday. Because of the lack of rain, high winds and available fuel, this will lead to a high risk of fires Thursday and Friday. If anything were to spark, it can get out of control very quickly. The area is in a rainfall deficit of about 1-3″ over the last 30 days.

We do have a FIRST ALERT WEATHER DAY in place for Thursday because of the high wind and high fire danger. It’s just a day to pay attention to the weather and use caution. Download the WHSV weather app, it’s your best source for local weather information. You don’t get a computer generated forecast. That is a forecast written and updated by our team of Meteorologists at WHSV.

STRONGEST WIND:

Winds will start to pick up Thursday morning for the Allegheny mountains and any ridges above 3,000′.

Then across the rest of the area winds continue to increase in the morning turning more breezy and strengthen in the afternoon.

The strongest winds will be Thursday afternoon through about 3 am Friday morning. Gusts across the area can top 40-60mph during this time but not for everyone.

40-60mph with the strongest gusts west of I-81
40-60mph with the strongest gusts west of I-81(WHSV)

Now the strongest wind gusts are expected to be west of I-81 to the Allegheny mountains. This is where the downsloping effect will be the most pronounced.

What is downsloping?

Downsloping is an effect when the wind moves across the mountain and warms as it moves down the lee side. Air has to flow up a mountain, and as it crosses and flows down the other side it of course sinks. Sinking air warms. This happens from time to time when we have a westerly wind, especially with a breeze. In fact we account for this warming in our forecast at times with a westerly wind.

The difference with the atmospheric setup Thursday is this is expected to be a much stronger downsloping event. This can lead to extreme high winds.

IMPACT:

With the high wind, this can lead to power outages, down tree limbs and in some cases down trees. Secure anything loose around your home or property. This includes trash cans and Christmas decorations. With the high wind, lack of rain and down leaves, there will be a high risk for fires Thursday and Friday.

If you have any burn or ash piles, it’s a good idea to go ahead and add extra water and soak them down just in case.

It’s also not a bad idea to not park under a tree Thursday.

We are still in the middle of fall wildfire season for West Virginia. In Virginia fall wildfire season is over however, you want to avoid any burning during this time.

THURSDAY EVENING:

As a dry cold front crosses Thursday evening, winds remain high. Again, gusts 40-60mph possible with the strongest gusts west of I-81 to the Allegheny mountains. For the Shenandoah Valley at elevations below 2,000′- the strongest wind will likely be before midnight and in some spots even start to settle by mid to late evening.

For the rest of the area and elevations above 2,000′, the strongest wind should be before about 3 am Friday morning. However into Friday morning, it will still be rather breezy. Just not as strong as earlier in the day.

Notice in this graphic how late Thursday evening we start to see the wind letting up across the Shenandoah Valley. Elsewhere the wind stays strong into early Friday morning. Now we also have extremely strong winds above the ground, at about 18,000′ the wind will be more than 100 mph!

Comparing elevation with wind gusts Thursday at 11pm. Winds let up below 2,000' but remain...
Comparing elevation with wind gusts Thursday at 11pm. Winds let up below 2,000' but remain strong at higher ridges. Above the ground at about 18,000, winds will be more than 100mph!(WHSV)

FRIDAY:

Wind Friday will not be anywhere near as strong. More breezy at times especially in the morning and across the Alleghenies. A few occasional high wind gusts. Now behind the cold front, humidity levels will drop rapidly in the morning. This with a breeze and dry fuels across the area will lead to the continued wildfire threat and there should be no burning across the area. Wind will turn nearly calm late afternoon and around sunset Friday.

Use extreme caution for the end of the week and avoid any burning.

It's unlawful to burn during these times at fall wildfire season
It's unlawful to burn during these times at fall wildfire season(WHSV)

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