Rapidly increasing drought across the Southeast is fueling wildfire growth

Rapidly increasing drought across the Southeast is fueling wildfire growth

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor data does not provide an optimistic outlook for the dry regions of the South, Southeast and Midwest, where wildfires fueled by dry conditions lead to emergency declarations.

Dry conditions across the South and Southeast continue to “rapidly deteriorate, leading to sudden drought and widespread drought conditions,” according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday.

The US Drought Monitor explained

Dry conditions are exacerbating the wildfire season, with hundreds of fires burning from Texas to Virginia. In the Midwest, moisture has been essentially non-existent since the last update, with some snow arriving in the upper Midwest only in the past week.

In North Carolina, where more than half the state is suffering from drought, Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency due to the current threat and potential for wildfires. The Poplar Fire near Edneyvale has destroyed several homes and continues to threaten others. South of Andrews, the Collett Ridge Fire has burned more than 4,300 acres and remains burning with minimal containment.

Firefighters working to contain the blaze are dealing with falling foliage, adding fuel to the fire with dry and warm conditions. Burn bans have been imposed on all 16 western counties in the Tar Heel State.

A wildland firefighter extinguishes a hot spot on the lines of the Poplar Fire in Henderson County, North Carolina. (Photo: NC Forest Service)
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Forest Service firefighters work to contain the Collett Ridge Fire. (Photo: US Forest Service-North Carolina)
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A helicopter raises water from Lake Nantahala in North Carolina to fight the Collette Ridge Fire. (Photo: US Forest Service-North Carolina)
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Forest Service firefighters work to contain the Collett Ridge Fire. (Photo: US Forest Service-North Carolina)
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Dry conditions have worsened in the Carolinas, Virginia and Kentucky since the last drought monitoring report a week ago.

“Rapid drought continues along the Atlantic Coast from South Carolina to Virginia as flash drought expands across the Southeast,” according to the Drought Monitor report.

The possibility of a “historically strong” El Nino phenomenon may continue through the spring

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency to assist firefighters after two wildfires broke containment lines over the weekend, including the Quaker Run Fire near the east side of Shenandoah National Park.

Forest rangers have closed streams and rivers within Shenandoah National Park to fishing due to drought and high water temperatures.

Tennessee and Georgia saw worsening drought last week, with exceptional drought now along the tri-state border with Alabama and Georgia.

Multiple fires burning nearby Knoxville And along the Tennessee-Georgia line. At least five fires caused by drought conditions are being fought in the north, the Georgia Forestry Commission reported Georgia.

An exceptional drought extends along the Gulf Coast

More than half of Louisiana is in exceptional drought — the worst level — as wildfires choke the Gulf Coast with smoke that has created dangerous driving conditions and unhealthy air.

The National Interagency Fire Center’s fire forecast predicts the potential for major wildland fires across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii in November.

Despite the lack of rain, there was some drop in temperatures in the South, with temperatures in areas of Louisiana and Mississippi falling about 8 degrees below normal. However, that was not enough to help drought conditions in either state. According to the US Drought Monitor, rapidly worsening drought is extending east into Mississippi, leading to more exceptional drought.

The study finds that the United States is likely to face increased risks of wildfires as Americans build in fire-prone areas

Mississippi is approaching 90% of the state in extreme and exceptional drought.

Drought continues along Florida’s west coast from the Panhandle through the Everglades, with severe drought in the Panhandle and Tampa Bay regions.

Rain is on the way for some

The FOX Forecast Center is tracking an approaching cold front that will bring beneficial rain to the drought-stricken South this weekend.

Between 2 and 5 inches of snow is expected across South Texas, with chances of snow also occurring in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Consistent rainfall is needed to improve drought conditions in multiple regions of the United States, including the South, Southeast, and Midwest.

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