Consistent rain patterns needed to get Panhandle out of critical - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Consistent rain patterns needed to get Panhandle out of critical fire danger

Rain falling on a muddy road in Amarillo; Source: KFDA Rain falling on a muddy road in Amarillo; Source: KFDA
Rain puddles start to gather in a parking lot during a storm; Source: KFDA Rain puddles start to gather in a parking lot during a storm; Source: KFDA
Fire burns from inside a tree after a wildfire passes through; Source: KFDA Fire burns from inside a tree after a wildfire passes through; Source: KFDA
Old growth dried out following a nearly 6 month drought; Source: KFDA Old growth dried out following a nearly 6 month drought; Source: KFDA
AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) -

For only the second time in 6 months, rain is expected to fall in the Panhandle, helping to decrease the critical fire danger.

Any amount of moisture we receive will decrease the fire danger on a short term scale, but to reduce it long term we need recurring storms.

"The precipitation that we're expecting with this weather system coming in today and tomorrow is anywhere from a half inch to an inch," said Dr. Stephen Bieda, Science and Operations Specialist for the National Weather Service of Amarillo.

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Any moisture will create new growth and lower the old growth's dry rating percentile.

"The percentiles we were talking about is a range of how dry the grasses are out there," said Dr. Bieda.

Currently the old growth is in the highest percentile and posing a threat.

"When you say 99th percentile, it means there has only been like 1 percent of days where the grass has been dryer," said Dr. Bieda. "It means it's really dry. This is some of the worst dryness you'll typically see in the grasses out there."

While this storm system won't get us out of the drought, it will dampen the fire danger for the time being.

"A whole lot depends on how much we get and how much follow up we have," said Dr. Tim Steffens, Agrilife Extension Specialist for Rangeland Resource Management

A storm system is a nice change of pace, but it won't get us out of the drought.

However, a short term rain will dampen the fire danger.

"The fire community refers to a quarter inch as a wetting rain," said Dr. Bieda. "That means that that amount of moisture is enough to take out the fuels and grasses at for at least a few days."

The algorithm is not an exact science.

The expected one to two inches of rain will lower the fire danger risk for five to seven days.

Bieda is hoping for a recurring pattern of storms to raise us out of the deficit.

"We do have another chance of precipitation Tuesday night in to Wednesday," said Dr. Bieda. "So that could stave off the grasses drying out again. As long as we get in to a pattern where every three, four, or five days we get rainfall, we can actually start the process of greening up those grasses and taking us out of this fire danger we have been in for so long."

When a region experiences a drought like the current one, we don't start at level zero.

Instead, we are in the negative, causing rain to provide only a short term relief.

"You need to add water just to get it back to basically zero," said Dr. Tim Steffens. "We may get a little bit of green to start, and in the short term, that could help us with the fire danger."

Without a reoccurring pattern it could create more destruction.

"We get a little bit of plant material grown, and then if it dries out and dies then we just got a higher and more continuous fuel load," said Dr. Tim Steffens. "Later on in the summer, we could have more and bigger and more intense fires than we would have had otherwise."

Steffens warns don't let a little rain fool you, we are not out of the woods just yet.

"We could still get some significant fires if we don't get some follow up. When it starts getting green again, and staying green that's when we can start breathing a little easier."

NewsChannel 10's First Alert Meteorologists find that we need at least four inches of rain to break even for the year.

We also need recurring storms to get us out of the drought and back in the green.

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