Firestorm 2011 has a smoky choke-hold on area but relief on the way in the short and long-term! | Weather

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Firestorm 2011 has a smoky choke-hold on area but relief on the way in the short and long-term!
Weather

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yes, it certainly was like a never-ending severe weather cut-in during last night's weather casts. I showed one plume of smoke after another and at one point a dozen new wildfires were being tracked per hour on live doppler radar. I have never seen anything like it. I have been tracking weather all over the country for about 20 years at different media outlets and on my own since I was 4 years old drawing weather maps. I usually love weather extremes but I have put fires and smoke on the list with ice storms as my least favorite weather to track and forecast. The main thing yesterday like every day is keeping people safe and sticking to the basics. I got word out on the wind direction that may threaten neighborhoods. Luckily there were no big wind shifts and evacuations were minimal. Good for people, but bad for our lungs as the air quality went into the unhealthy range for sensitive groups.

Today we woke up with the air quality east of the St. Johns River in the unhealthy range for sensitive groups. You don't need me to tell you that. This picture sadly tells the story. The dog walk this morning was not pleasant and we both wreaked of smoke after a very short walk. There were ashes falling on us and some of them were incredibly large like big wet snowflakes. I wish it was snow. Usually our dog can walk for miles, this morning he laid down after just a block which meant he wanted to go back inside. This smoke is hard on all of us. Those with respiratory ailments should avoid going outside as much as possible. Notice we do have a wind shift to the east southeast but not until mid to late afternoon. This means relief is on the way especially for those east of the river but this is bad news for folks west of the river including our friends in Putnam County, Keystone Heights to Lake City and up into northwest Charlton County. These areas will see the air quality and visibility go down.

What is amazing is at 10 a.m. this morning Jacksonville still had visibilities down under a mile due to smoke and smoke was causing lower visibility all the way to Daytona Beach which is about 200 miles away from the smoke source in southeast Georgia. The smoke has dimmed the sun to the point where it looks more like a glowing orange moon. I want those blue skies back and the wind shift cannot come soon enough but this is not good news for all of us. If you are in areas of northern Camden County the fire will switch direction and could pose a threat to some neighborhoods. Here are a few fire safety tips for those near fires.

We are also closely monitoring the Sante Fe fire in Bradford County. The wind shift may cause some problems as well and firefighters are gearing up to once again keep people safe. Now we did have isolated storms yesterday but they were so far and few between they caused more fires rather than rather than dousing the firestorm of 2011 which now compromises more fires than 1998.

Now how about the rain? The CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) shows a very unstable atmosphere that is like a loaded gun as my teachers used to say at Lyndon State College. The problem we have is there are no frontal boundaries near us to lift the air and it is still very warm even in the upper-levels of the atmosphere. But we do have something working for us today! We have two sea breezes that will collide and a cool pool of air that is quickly moving down from the Midwest and Tennessee Valley so I have rain chances increasing late today with even a chance of rain late tonight and once again Thursday afternoon! Now the CAPE is about 3,000 over us and severe weather increases rapidly with anything over 2,000 so we need to keep our guard up not only for thunderstorms but severe weather over the next couple days. The main threat would be downburst winds like we saw off Baymeadows and Southside on Monday and in Arlington. Donna Golden sent this picture in from Arlington. Luckily everybody is okay after hurricane force gusts brought this enormous tree down on her home.

Donna Jones who I want to thank for the nice hair-cut sent me in a picture of another huge tree felled by those rowdy boomers off Southside Boulevard.

She also has family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that was hit by those horrible tornadoes and her stories were simply captivating. I do not even remember getting my haircut. Our prayers are with her family and friends in Alabama. Our problems here on the First Coast really do pale in comparison. The story that really hit me hard was that the two most common things left of totally destroyed neighborhoods were toilets and teddy bears. She did send me some very personal photos of her home state that was ravaged and out of respect to her there really is no need to show them. You can help out in a big way by texting the Red Cross at 90999 or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. There will be a menu of options in which you can also give to the Japan tsunami victims. You can also go to http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main&s_src=RSG000000000&s_subsrc=RCO_BigRedButton to help those in dire need.

We will continue to keep you updated on firestorm 2011 and the much needed rain on the way. Here are Monday's amounts I promised I would post.

Palm Coast 3.17"
Ortega 2.03"
Arlington 1.97"
Downtown 1.61"
Callahan 1.60"
Jax Beach 1.32"
Jacksonville 1.30"
Orange Park 1.15"
Mandarin 1.10"
Springfield 0.98"
Saint Johns 0.80"
Mayport 0.51"
Macclenny 0.43"
Saint Augustine 0.40"
Palatka 0.28"
Keystone Hts. 0.15"

Most of southeast Georgia had .25" or less and with all the lightning around the storms actually did more harm than good by setting off dozens of new wildfires. One of our latest model runs for the next 2 weeks has another 3 to 5 inches of rain on the way for our area. We will need every drop of it and then some. Keep those positive thoughts going. I do not think we will see smoke this thick again and that our fire season is in fact peaking right now. This is not saying smoke will not be a problem at times over the next couple weeks but I feel like the worst is right now. Stay safe and bring on the rain nature! Stay cool too! Temperatures will once again top out near 100 and the only thing keeping some areas from the century mark will be the smoke. As our visibilities improve this weekend I see no reason why not to forecast 100 degrees. If there is good news it is the dry drought-ridden atmosphere is not causing the humidity to go through the roof like it normally does this time of year. Have a great day.

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