P1.6 West Texas Mesonet observations in proximity to a dangerous wildfire and wind shift interactions

Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Wingwood (Atlantic Oakes Resort)
Kenneth R. Widelski, NOAA/NWS, Lubbock, TX; and T. T. Lindley

More than 45 fires burned nearly 350,000 acres across New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas during regional wildfire outbreaks on 1 January and 12 January 2006. During these events, strong cold fronts passed through West Texas and caused sudden wind shifts at three ongoing wildfire burn sites. The wind shifts altered fire propagation and adversely impacted firefighting operations. Previously unthreatened structures were evacuated, firefighting equipment became isolated, and one firefighter was injured. Instances of sudden wind shifts interacting with wildfires pose serious risks to life and property as the flank of the fire becomes wind-driven and flame lengths increase in proximity to crews battling the blaze. Such occurrences account for a majority of wildland firefighting fatalities. This study will document Texas Tech University West Texas Mesonet data in proximity to the dangerous wind shift and wildfire interactions near Clarendon and McLean, Texas, on 1 January 2006, and near Dimmitt, Texas, on 12 January 2006. Observed meteograms from these sites depicted rapid changes in 2 m and 10 m winds, along with 2 m temperature and dewpoint. This data illustrated how the initial wind shift altered fire propagation, and how the post-frontal airmass provided conditions less favorable for extreme wildfire bahvior.
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