"New Warning System Could Save Lives During Wildfires"

"The system got its biggest test yet in February 2024 as a million-acre blaze ripped through the Texas Panhandle."

"The biggest wildfire outside of Alaska in modern U.S. history recently tore a 100-mile-long, 20-mile-wide gash across the northeast Texas Panhandle and extreme western Oklahoma, destroying more than 500 structures and killing two people. Despite its horror, the fire served as a valuable test for a collaborative warning process that’s shaving precious minutes off the time needed to warn and evacuate residents.

The Smokehouse Creek Fire, which began on February 26, 2024, was declared fully contained on March 16 after burning 1,058,482 acres. A second fire just to the southwest, Windy Deuce, burned 144,045 acres. Both fires ranked as megafires (covering more than 100,000 acres), and both erupted after power lines were compromised by warm, dry winds gusting above 60 mph, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. ...

Just a few days before the Smokehouse Creek Fire, wildfire experts from around the nation were meeting to discuss the new warning project and other emerging research on fire weather and forecasting. The workshop, held at the Norman-based National Weather Center, was sponsored by multiple entities from NOAA, the University of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State University, including the NOAA-OU Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations. The meeting provided a glimpse of how experts in the Southern Plains — whose wildfire plague has gotten less national attention than the West’s — are developing some of the tools needed to address fire nationwide in tomorrow’s climate."

Bob Henson reports for Yale Climate Connections March 26, 2024.

Source: Yale Climate Connections, 03/27/2024