Despite the blustery winds, it was a pretty pleasant Easter Sunday across Western Wisconsin. However, today's conditions were ripe for wildfires. It was warm in the 60s, and there was very dry air in place. Relative humidity was as low as 19% at one time in Eau Claire. These conditions meant any ignition would likely spark a wildfire that would have the potential to spread quickly with the gusty winds.
Due to these conditions we had a Red Flag Warning for Western Wisconsin and much of the upper Midwest today. The Red Flag Warning just means that a wildfire has occurred or the potential is very high for a wildfire to begin and spread. Winds will die down this evening, which will allow the Red Flag Warnings to be dropped, and the fire risk will go down.
Tomorrow, while we likely wont be under a Red Flag Warning, yet the fire danger in Western Wisconsin is high. Relative humidity will come up to around 30% with the colder air, but it still will be windy. Check out this forecast map of projected winds tomorrow afternoon. This map shows sustained winds speeds of between 20 to 25 mph. Gusts could once again be as high as 30 or 40 mph like earlier today.
We'll continue with the windy weather on into Tuesday. By Wednesday, winds will back off and the fire threat will really start to improve. However, what will really improve our situation is some rain. Check out a Midwest view of the drought status.
For the last few months, this map hasn't changed until this week. It's a subtle change, but a disturbing one. Most of Western Wisconsin was abnormally dry, but the moderate and severe drought remained in Minnesota. Yes, we have received some rains over the past several weeks, but they haven't been a soaking, widespread rainfall. Look carefully, to the zoomed in view below of Wisconsin.
The moderate drought area has moved into Pierce, Pepin and Trempealeau counties. For the past several months, we haven't been improving our drought status, but we haven't been getting worse. Well now that has changed with this moderate drought area invading into Western Wisconsin.
So will we get some relief? Possibly...It looks like a pattern shift will take place by the end of the week. It would be a shift to a wetter, more active weather pattern. The forecast models are showing a parade of low pressure systems to bring several days of rainfall across the upper Midwest. It's still pretty far out, but it's encouraging. Hopefully, it can make a dent into our drought situation and decrease our fire danger.