Midland's National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Red-Flag warning for wildfire danger at about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Although the warning was set to expire in the early evening hours Tuesday, dangerously dry conditions remain in effect, according to meteorologist Greg Murdoch of NWS Midland.
“What that means is that effective weather in combination with the fuel dryness leads to conditions that are favorable for fires to start and grow,” Murdoch said. “They may exhibit some resistance to control.”
Murdoch said the red-flag warning would end Tuesday night, but that doesn't mean the danger is over.
“The winds will decrease (Tuesday evening) and the red flag warning will expire at 9 o'clock,” he said. “Normally what we'll do if the winds are going to last longer than what we initially forecast, then we would extend it. We don't foresee that right now. What we do foresee is that the air tonight is going to remain very dry. Fire conditions will be categorized as 'poor' overnight, and so going into (Wednesday), that'll lead to another day of very dry conditions across the area. That will include Howard County. But the wind will be less than what it is (Tuesday), so probably there won't be a red flag warning, but it will still be very dry and fire danger will probably be at least 'high' tomorrow.
Murdoch offered some advice regarding fire safety during dry conditions.
“They should be cautious doing things outdoors, whether it's work, you know...building fence, or welding pipe or mowing the yard...anything that can cause a spark can set a fire off when the grass is dry enough,” he said. “Probably the most common-sensical thing people can do is be especially cautious with open flame or activities that can generate sparks.”
Howard County Volunteer Fire Chief Mitchell Hooper said Howard County has been under a burn ban for several weeks, but that status is determined by local officials – Howard County commissioners – while the Red-Flag warning is issued by the NWS.
Hooper said the NWS warning adds extra emphasis to the county's prohibition on burning.
“On days like this, no burning outside,” he said. “Even days leading up to days like this, no burning outside. Another weather site issued a notice that Texas may not get rain until July...a good, soaking rain.”
While Howard County has been fairly lucky with regard to wildfires, the incidence of outdoor fires has been increasing.
“The past two weeks, they've picked up a little bit. We had one at 176 at Buzzard Creek a couple of weeks ago,” he said.