Parched Prairies desperate for rain, extreme fire ratings
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 12:04 PM - Fire danger ratings have soared to extreme levels across parts of the Prairies. The threat for wildfires have prompted some evacuation orders and officials say, the biggest challenge is the weather.
HIGH HEAT, DRY CONDITIONS A MAJOR CONCERN
A big ridge of high pressure moving across the Rockies has been delivering some hot temperatures through the southern Prairies early this week. On Monday, a handful of new daytime high temperature records were broken in parts of Alberta, including in Drumheller where it reached 30oC. Even more records were set once again on Tuesday with Lethbridge joining the 30oC club.
Combine the high heat and powerful wind gusts and that also enhances the risk for wildfires.
WATCH BELOW: HIGH WINDS ADD FUEL TO THE FIRE
"The biggest challenge is the weather right now," said Bob Scott, deputy fire chief for Strathcona County, where on-ground work continues with crews to control fire spread.
"It's very, very dry," Scott said in a Monday update. "We haven't had any appreciable rain in the past while that's making a difference in helping to green things up. So as a result, the warm temperatures and drying winds that we've got, it's presenting the challenge of causing the fires to intensify."
Fire crews are also battling a second major fire in Alberta's Lamont County as well as in Westlock County, which is about 70 km north of Edmonton.
In Saskatchewan, an evacuation notice ordered for the Hamlet of Crutwell near Prince Albert has been cancelled, although a 1500 hectare fire is burning close to the village of Holbein. There is no emergency evacuation order for Holbein, but residents are urged to remain on standby due to fires burning in the area.
A wildfire also prompted the evacuation of cottages near Caddy Lake near the Manitoba/Ontario on Sunday with growing concerns of the widespread drought-like conditions ahead of the upcoming May long weekend. A wildfire forced several people from their homes in Lac du Bonnet, which is about 80 km east of Winnipeg, on Tuesday afternoon. Sever water bombers and a helicopter were brought to the scene to help tackle the growing fire.
Burn bans persist across much of southern and eastern Manitoba as the area remains desperate for rain. The City of Winnipeg, for example hasn't recorded ANY rainfall since April 13 and before that, amounts were extremely minimal.
RAIN RELIEF, BUT LIKELY MUCH LESS THAN NEEDED
Firefighters are looking to the skies for some help.
"Rain showers and a sharp cool down are expected for Alberta Wednesday night into Thursday," says Weather Network meteorologist Brett Soderholm. "A system is expected to develop stateside, bringing widespread showers to the Foothills and southern Alberta in general in this time."
As much as 40 mm could fall in the extreme southwestern parts of the province like Pincher Creek, while Calgary and areas east will likely see between 5-10 mm. An embedded non-severe thunderstorm risk is also widespread across southern Alberta on Wednesday with the main threats being locally heavy rain and small hail.
"Through Friday, about 5-15 mm of rain will push into Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which is good news as it has been exceedingly dry in this region," Soderholm says. "Alongside this rain, temperatures will drop back down to seasonal, if not slightly below by the end of the week."