Fire Danger is High this Weekend
October 9th, 2020
The smoky skies have become a staple in Southeast Wyoming since the Mullen Fire exploded in size two weeks ago. Strong winds from the west allowed the fire to rapidly expand in size a week after it formed, causing it to jump from 17,000 acres to 80,000 acres in two days. Over the past two weeks since then it has grown to more than 171,000 acres. This weekend does not bring much good news when it comes to the Mullen Fire or fire danger for the state. Today is the second day this week that there are no active Red Flag Warnings in Wyoming, however Fire Weather Watches are widespread for the state until 8:00 PM MDT tomorrow thanks to strong winds that will be moving in tomorrow. The Day 2 Fire Outlook for Wyoming shows the whole state under at least an Elevated Risk for fire activity, with North Central Wyoming being under a Critical Risk thanks to very warm conditions on top of the strong winds. Air quality alerts also remain in effect for Southeastern Wyoming thanks to smoke from the Mullen Fire.
There is a bit of good news this weekend in terms of battling the fires and all the smoke: rain is in the forecast, and the majority of the state will see some sort of precipitation. This is being brought through by a cold front that will drop temperatures by upwards of 20 degrees or more around the state. Wildfires do not spread as well in cooler conditions. The added moisture to the atmosphere by the coming rain will help to reduce smoke content around the state. However, the amount of smoke already in the air is going to limit the amount of rain Wyoming sees, with the western half of the state expected to receive the bulk of the rain while the system weakens as it pushes east. The rain could potentially help to slow the Mullen Fire itself, however there are a couple of issues here. The first issue is that the amount of rain expected to fall in the Medicine Bow National Forest is under a quarter of an inch. That’s not much rain, and the Mullen Fire is a continuously growing beast. The other issue is with the heat of the Mullen Fire along with the very dry conditions, it is quite possible that a lot of this rain will evaporate before it reaches the fire, resulting in virga. The best thing to hope for is a reduction of smoke in the skies for a day thanks to increased humidity.
And a day may be all that lasts in terms of clearer conditions from all the haze. The winds that Wyoming will see this weekend as the cold front passes through are going to be on par with what the state sees during large winter storms. The southern half of Wyoming, especially East of Rock Springs, will be seeing sustained wind speeds in excess of 30 mph on Sunday and Monday with gusts of over 50 mph. These conditions are very similar to when the Mullen Fire first jumped in size as recalled earlier. It will be cooler outside when these winds come through, as temperatures likely wont get above 65 degrees anywhere in the state for Sunday and Monday. 65 degrees is still a bit warm for this time of year, however it is a good bit cooler than what we have been seeing. Even with the cooler conditions and with optimal rainfall amounts, the Mullen Fire will likely grow a good deal more this weekend, especially on the eastern front. There is reason for concern in Laramie, as the fire is now less than 40 miles away before these ridiculous winds move in.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -
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