Tornado lands in Kansas City as winds increase fire risk west – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – A powerful storm system moving through the Rockies and Plains is whipping up winds and raising concerns about more fires in the southwest and tornadoes on the Great Plains.

A tornado struck Andover, Kansas on Friday night, according to Jane Welch, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.

The extent of the damage is not entirely accessible, but photos on social media show damaged buildings and overturned cars.

Meanwhile, the West is in the grip of one of the worst droughts in decades, and the fire season has not only started early, but has set records.

Since January, over one million acres have been burned, well above the year-to-date average of around 632,000 acres. New Mexico is particularly hard hit with 5 major fires currently burning, and the forecast for the next few days provides no chance for a break.

New Mexico has already reached its annual fire activity, and it’s only April.

“Our season started earlier than before,” said Andrew Church, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) from the Albuquerque office.

“Due to climate change and the mega-drought in the western United States, there is just no moisture in the soil anymore,” he continues.

The lack of soil moisture, high temperatures and strong winds are major factors that can lead to existing fires and new ones spreading uncontrollably.

Critical fire hazard is rising to the extreme today

Red flag warnings have been issued as the wind will whip in some of the driest air yet, especially in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Friday’s fire hazard will increase to level 3 of 3 “extremely critical” area as conditions worsen.

The area facing level 3 conditions includes parts of southeastern Colorado, including the city of Pueblo.

Critical fire conditions (level 2 out of 3) are in place for the Denver area.

House-to-house evacuations are being conducted in Arvada, CO, a suburb of Denver, Friday afternoon, when a grass fire burns in the area, according to a tweet from Arvada Police.

The fire is moving east and alarms will be sent to homes in the area, police said.

“Winds in this area are expected to continue at 30 to 40 mph with gusts up to 55 mph,” says the Storm Prediction Center.

“We have already had three days at extreme levels this year and were a little worried about this one. We have had several fires so far this year,” said Kyle Mozley, a meteorologist at NWS in Pueblo.

“Any fire that starts will have the ability to spread quickly, and that includes throwing cigarette butts out to campfires for decommissioned power lines and stuff like that, that would be another fear,” Mozley says.

“Along with this ‘extreme’ concern, we cannot dismiss the extended” critical “area that covers parts of five states (NM, CO, TX, OK and KS) and includes Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Lubbock, Amarillo and Midland, Texas. “, said the Storm Prediction Center. “Dry, windy conditions in the region will be at the peak of the critical threshold, almost extreme critical criteria.”

The current major fires that they monitor include the tunnel fire in Arizona, where 19,075 acres have been burned and the flame is at 89% containment; and Hermits Peak / Calf Canyon Fire in New Mexico, which has spread over 65,824 acres and is 37% contained.

Wildfires in northeastern New Mexico have damaged or destroyed nearly 300 structures, including 166 homes, authorities said at a news conference Thursday night.

Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak fires have destroyed 166 homes, 108 outbuildings and three commercial properties in San Miguel County, according to San Miguel County Sheriff Chris Lopez. Fourteen additional structures have been damaged.

Hard to believe, but the drought is getting worse

The US drought monitor brought more bad news on Thursday. The southwestern and southern plains experienced further intensification of the drought in the last week.

“Deterioration was common across the southwest, with exceptional drought (the 2 highest designation) widely expanding in New Mexico and moderate to severe drought increasing in coverage over parts of Arizona and Colorado,” the drought summary said.

New Mexico has twice the area covered by extraordinary drought (the highest level); it now comprises over 15% of the state. The drought in the state has been steadily intensifying since the beginning of the year, with almost 68% of the state now in extreme to extraordinary drought.

“It looks like it’s getting worse before it gets better,” Church says. “We used to see the relative humidity rise behind the cold fronts, but with the soil humidity completely depleted, the air stays dry with single-digit relative humidity and leads to these fire threats.”

He continues, “we may have to wait a while until the monsoon rains start, hopefully sometime in late June.”

Rain to the east, along with another threat

It’s another kind of threat in the plain on Friday. As necessary rain misses west and southwest, thunderstorms can become violent on the plains with harsh weather elements such as damaging winds, heavy hail and even tornadoes that a potent storm spurs from the Rockies east.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) has increased the threat of severe storms to a level 4 out of 5 “moderate” risk across parts of Kansas and Nebraska, including Lincoln and Hastings. “All severe weather hazards will be possible, but devastating gusts of wind could eventually become the more prevalent hazard across south-central to eastern NE and north-central / northeast KS,” the SPC said in its updated discussion.

Overall, the threat of severe storm includes over 10 million people across the Central Plains, where “several forecast scenarios are expected to unfold this afternoon and continue into the evening,” according to the SPC. While devastating winds are possible across parts of Nebraska and Kansas, a few strong tornadoes and very large hail (baseball to softball size) are also still possible Friday afternoon and into the night.

The violent storms are expected to continue into the evening and into the night.

A tornado has been issued for eastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska until 1 p.m. 23.00 CDT. This watch includes Topeka and Wichita in Kansas and Lincoln, Nebraska. SPC warned “a couple of intense tornadoes are likely,” along with gusts up to 70 mph and hail up to 3 inches in diameter.

Meteorologist Ray Sunday from NWS in Tulsa told CNN that he expects the worst time to be between 6 p.m. 18.00 and midnight.

“If we get a dryline setup, which we think we will, these thunderstorms will move into southeastern Oklahoma and can produce hail the size of tennis balls along with 70 mph winds and a few tornadoes.”

On Saturday, the midwestern cities of St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis see the threat of violent storms.

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