Waldo Canyon Fire Forecast
Twice Daily Windshifts Cause Problems
You may be waking up this morning and asking yourself, "Why did the fire switch direction overnight?" as you fund out portions of Manitou Springs have been evacuated. The answer has to do with the weather that is typically experienced in southern Colorado.
The mountain-plains wind circualtion causes wind-shifts twice a day in the Pikes Peak Region and will result in different flanks of the fire being active at different times. Typically, this circualtion produces wind flow out of the south or southeast from the mid-morning to mid-evening and reverses from the mid-evening to mid-morning with the wind coming from the north or northwest.
Recall during Saturday afternoons explosive fire growth that the northern flank of the fire was active and expanding away from Waldo Canyon. This prompted evacuations and closures of Garden of the Gods, Glen Eyrie and the Mountain Shadows neighborhood in northwest Colorado Springs. During the daylight hours the fire was growing northward as the diurnal wind out of the south pushed the fire in that direction.
During KRDO Newschannel 13's coverage of the fire Saturday evening, the diurnal wind shift kicked in and switched direction. Between 10:00 and 10:30, the wind now flowing out of the north caused the southern end of the fire to become active again. Many of our anchors and reporters during this time frame were commenting on the eeire look to the flames and the crowning from tree top to tree top that was being observed as this southern end of the fire now started to advance.
The wind out of the north for the remainder of the night supported continued growth and advancement of the southern flank of the Waldo Canyon Fire and prompted evacuations of Manitou Springs north of highway 24 in the early morning hours of Sunday.
So what do we expect today?
The diurnal wind shift will kick in again in the mid to late morning. This will produce wind out of the the south or southeast until mid-evening. During this time-frame, I expect the northern flank of the fire to again become active and start to advance. The smoke plume will likely be more visible than it is this morning, due to lower humidity during the daytime hours than what is experienced overnight.
The large scale wind will be about the same strength as Saturday, with some occasional gusts between 20 and 25mph. Humidity levels will be in the single digits for the afternoon and fire growth should be noticeable on the northern flank once more.
One additional concern today is the slight chance of dry & gusty thunderstorms in the vicinity of the fire. If a thunderstorm with erratic wind gusts develops over or moves over the fire, it could cause sudden and explosive fire growth in varying directions and on different sides of the fire.
The diurnal wind shift is expected to dominate our weather pattern for the next several days and it will likely continue to cause a resource drain on firefighters as they have to focus on different sides of the fire and different times of day and night.
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