While Hurricane Ian plows Southwest Florida with torrential rains, the northwest region of the state is expected to be affected by drought. Warnings of wildfires have been issued.
The National Interagency Fire Center stated in a statement that “Locally Critical Fire Weather Conditions are Expected across Far Southwest Georgia, Southern Alabama, the Western Florida Panhandle and South Louisiana.”
The category four hurricane reached maximum wind speeds of 155mph and made landfall Wednesday afternoon at 3:05 PM ET. Although it has been downgraded from a tropical storm to now, its impact is still felt throughout the southeast. The Carolinas, Northeast Florida and Georgia are facing life-threatening storm surges. Heavy rain is forecast as far north as Virginia.
Other concerns have been raised by the storm. After one of the hottest summers, the hurricane’s counterclockwise rotation has brought with it northerly winds as well as low humidity to many already dry forests in the region.
The Florida Forest Service stated in a statement that “The combination of the high surface to the north and strong pressure gradient around hurricane Ian will drive moderately powerful northerly winds through much of the Southeast.” These areas are still dry so fuels can be used to spread fire.
The Keetch-Byram Drought Index is a scale that measures the dryness of soil. Northeast Florida’s border with Alabama is the most affected.
The Alabama Forestry Commission stated in a statement that “Alabama will see lower than usual relative humidity and stronger wind across the state, which means conditions are favorable for wildfires, to start easily and spread quickly, and be difficult control.”
The drought index readings for the south of Florida, however, have been the lowest, due to torrential downpours that followed the storm. Large areas of the peninsula received well over 12 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. More rain is expected in the days ahead.
The immediate threat of fire in the southeastern US will decrease as the storm front moves away. Storm-torn forests may still pose a fire risk even after the hurricane passes. In the Florida Panhandle earlier this year, wildfires broke out fueled by tree debris from Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
The National Interagency Fire Center reported 53,338 fires in the United States, which covered more than 6.8 million acres. This is the second of two record-breaking wildfire seasons in America, which saw $4.4 billion spend on suppression in 2021.
Rory Hadden, a University of Edinburgh expert on fire safety, said that “We are pretty confident that climate changes is having a huge effect on wildfires worldwide.” “Certainly, wildfires in the United States are becoming more difficult to combat.”
He said that it’s not as simple to say that climate change is making things hotter. “The problem is the extremes in the weather we have… We’re seeing longer periods of dry weather and more rain.”
Fire-prone residents are advised to stay away from outdoor burning and to take extra care when extinguishing allowed fires. The Alabama Forestry Commission stated that if you have to burn, please make sure your fires are properly extinguished. Smoking piles located near flammable vegetation are at risk of rekindling and spreading under these conditions.
Hadden advised that wildfires could be dealt with by the fire department. It is extremely difficult to do.”
The NFPA provides excellent guidance that outlines simple steps you can take in your garden or yard to create a buffer between yourself and the natural environment. You can do things like removing ornamental plants from your home, clearing gutters and avoiding mulching your walls.
He said, “It’s a terrible situation and it will get worse. But we’re trying for positive solutions to it.” “We are improving our ability to identify the risks and predict the fire, and help people protect their property and the environment.”