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November 17, 2013

Fire danger alert issued in western Ark., NE Okla.

FORT SMITH, Ark — A combination of strong winds and low humidity has forced officials to issue a fire danger alert for western Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service in Tulsa said wind gusts of 25-35 mph were forecast for Saturday with lower relative humidity values predicted to fall below 30 percent on Sunday.

“All of the area is under the same threat. It’s going to be windy, warm and a low relative humidity,” meteorologist Joe Sellers told the Times Record. “Any time you have a combination of those, there’s an enhanced fire danger.”

The bull’s-eye areas for the elevated fire danger are mainly in Sequoyah and LeFlore counties in Oklahoma and Sebastian, Franklin and southern Crawford counties in Arkansas, Sellers said.

Spotty showers and isolated thunderstorms had a 40 percent chance of moving into the afternoon on Saturday, heading to the east. Sunday’s chances for precipitation are set at 20 percent, mainly for the morning hours, Sellers told the newspaper.

The predicted spotty precipitation might not necessarily reduce the fire danger, Sellers said.

“If we get enough it’ll bring it down, but based on what we’ve got right now — where we think the precipitation will be the greatest — it’s not going to reduce it a whole lot,” Sellers said.

Lou Koch, forester for Sebastian, Crawford and Logan counties, said he believes the potential fire threat is low, although he added that grass fields tend to dry out after a frost.

“There are actually differences in moisture from ground level all the way up to cloud level,” Koch said. “Of course, if you’ve got high-level moisture coming in, you could get the rain and you’d still have a fairly low humidity on the ground.”

Precipitation and humidity levels are not always directly related, Koch said. Humidity levels can change with altitude, are not constant and can change depending on the region.

“Stay in Arkansas long enough — it’ll change,” Koch said.

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