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Insider Blog: How dry are we and what’s our fire risk?

Many have likely enjoyed this stretch of relatively calm and quiet weather. The dry has no doubt given folks ample time to enjoy fall outdoors, but when do we stop asking for sunny days, and start counting the days to the next rain chance in the forecast?

While it's been pretty dry lately, the year as a whole really hasn't been. Through December 6th, the Columbia area has recorded over 50 inches of rain, and is already in a nearly 10 inch surplus compared to the 30 year average.

Spring into summer was our wettest stretch with the Columbia area picking up more than 11 inches of rain in June.

Since then we've seen some wet and dry stretches, but our most recent stretch of below average precipitation really got started in November, where totals were down nearly an inch and a half on average.

Through the first week of December, Columbia recorded less than two tenths of an inch.

Putting month to date totals down over a quarter of an inch below average. This is after a 5 year average precipitation total that doesn't quite live up to 30 year records, save for December of 2018, when the area recorded more than 4 inches of rain.

Numbers tell us we're dry, but can we translate that to real world risks?

When the drought monitor starts to look like this, we start to think about possible fire risks.

Fortunately, as of today, we don't meet Elevated fire danger criteria, but we may soon. On a windy day like today, we get close.

Monday brought sustained winds of nearly 15 mph, and relative humidity values between 30% and 40%. Despite the lack of rainfall, our dead fuel moisture levels are still just moist enough, in the 11% to 15% territory.

And by the same measure, we fortunately don't quite meet red flag criteria either.

Regardless, as our dry stretch continues, we'll have to keep a close eye on these factors.

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John Ross

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