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Critical fire danger, red flag warnings for most of eastern half of Colorado Friday

Lack of precipitation could set April records across eastern Colorado
Exchange Wildfire Worry Rocky Flats
Posted at 11:59 AM, Apr 29, 2022

DENVER – Much of the eastern half of Colorado is under red flag warnings for critical fire danger again Friday because of relative humidity in the 5-15% range and winds that could gust 40-60 miles per hour amid already dry conditions, according to the National Weather Service.

The red flag warnings run from the Greeley and Fort Morgan areas all the way south to the border with New Mexico and include most of the counties in between along the Front Range and on the plains.

In the northern part of the warned area, including the Denver metro area and the plains east of Denver, northwesterly and downsloping winds of 25-35 mph are expected, with gusts up to 55 mph. The red flag warnings are in effect from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Relative humidity should be higher, in the 15% range, for areas including the Denver metro and Elbert and Lincoln counties.

But as one moves south, humidity is expected to decrease. From El Paso County south, relative humidity is expected to fall as low as 5% on Friday. The red flag warnings in the southern part of the warned area are in effect until 9 p.m., and winds are forecast to be 30-40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph.

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Fire danger in Colorado Friday from the Wildland Fire Assessment System.

“The highest danger will be over the southern plains where humidity will be particularly low, but given the forecast wind speeds, fire danger concerns still exist for areas north including the Denver metro and portions of the plains to the north and east despite more marginal humidity,” the NWS in Boulder wrote in Friday’s forecast.

Some thunderstorms are expected to develop across Morgan and Logan counties into early Saturday morning.

The gusty winds are expected to continue overnight and into Saturday morning, especially on the far eastern plains. But a surface low should increase humidity levels in the northern part of the warned area above 40% and tamp down fire danger overnight, according to the NWS.

Critical fire danger, red flag warnings for most of eastern half of Colorado Friday

Southern Colorado won’t see as much humidity overnight, however, and winds across the plains are expected to continue into the morning hours.

Saturday will bring drier air back into eastern Colorado, but it will not be as windy. Then, there will again be elevated fire danger Sunday into the afternoon as winds shift again ahead of expected rain across the area Sunday evening into Monday morning.

Along with the gusty winds, an extremely dry April in several parts of the state is causing the high fire danger that has persisted for much of the past month.

Denver International Airport received 0.05 inches of rain and hail around noon Friday, which means this April will not set the new record for the driest April ever. But it will still be among the driest ever recorded.

“The chance for Denver driest April ever is over! Thunderstorms have just moved over Denver with rain and hail falling. .05” has fallen in the past 15 minutes and counting,” the NWS in Boulder tweeted.

Boulder will set a record for the driest April, at 0.12 inches of precipitation this month, if it does not rain Friday or Saturday.

Since 2000, Denver has averaged 1.56 inches of precipitation in April – the wettest being 2009 (3.22 inches) and the driest being 2002 (0.23 inches). Last April, Denver saw more than 2 inches of precipitation for the month.

Colorado Springs looks on track to tie its driest April ever at 0.01 inches of precipitation, which would tie a record set in 1964. And Campo, in Baca County in southeast Colorado, could set a new record for the driest April, as it has only seen 0.01 inches of precipitation this month. Campo’s record of 0.02 inches of precipitation in April was set in 1956, according to the National Weather Service.

Most of the Denver metro area has so far this month seen 1.35-2.25 inches of precipitation less than it typically does for the month of April, and nearly all of the eastern plains saw at least an inch less of precipitation this month than it normally receives.

Severe drought crept back into northeast Denver, most of Adams County, eastern Arapahoe County, and most of the eastern plains over the past week – areas that were mostly considered to be experiencing only moderate drought just a week ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The Division of State Fire Prevention and Control said last week it is predicting an earlier-than-normal beginning to what they are now calling the “core fire season” – officials now know wildfire is possible year-round – and above-normal fire behavior during that core part of the season.

Sunday could bring some rain and storms to Denver and eastern Colorado later on in the evening and into Monday morning, with another chance of rain midweek.

Much of the foothills, Front Range, northwestern counties, eastern plains and southern counties have fire restrictions. Click here to learn more about each county's rules regarding fire danger. Click here to sign up for county emergency notifications.