What will be a spectacular weekend for many folks with outdoor plans — dry, sunny, warm – will be a continuing nightmare for firefighters working on more than 20,000 acres of wildfires in the mountains of Western Virginia. (Inset at right, and linked here in full size, an aerial photo of the Barbours Creek fire at the Alleghany-Craig county line, courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.) Dryness is a growing problem for Southwest Virginia, but it is worse almost everywhere north, east and especially south of us, as shown on the most recent Drought Monitor map of the Southeast U.S. Rainy periods around March 16-20 and March 23-25 that affected our region more than other parts of Virginia have kept us out of the “abnormally dry” zone, the first stage of drought, that covers most of the rest of Virginia. Some of southeast Virginia has already been upgraded to moderate drought, and states south of us have lots of moderate to severe drought ongoing. Whether that has a chance to lapse into a severe summer drought depends a lot on whether we can get more of the typical “April showers” and May rains in the next several weeks. Our chance of getting significant rain in the next week depends on a cold front moving through the central U.S. now. It is triggering severe weather on this Friday evening (tornado confirmed with damage in Norman, Okla.), and a large tornado and severe storm outbreak possible on Saturday. This front will make grudging progress our way, with some waves of low pressure moving along it, aiding in the growing southerly wind flow that will push temperatures into the 80s across most of the region by Monday and will also gradually re-moisten the atmosphere. This evening’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center rainfall map through Wednesday evening suggests half-inch-plus amounts will be possible across Southwest Virginia. There will probably be some storm threat too, though probably not nearly as bad as Saturday’s in the central U.S. Rain would be good in fighting fires, but lightning can spark new ones.
Highs will top 70 over most of Southwest Virginia Saturday and some, including the Roanoke Valley, will likely top 80 on Sunday afternoon. Most will top 80 on Monday.