April brings an uptick of high winds and dangerous fire conditions, forecasters say

Pueblo Fire Department
Firefighters work a fire in Pueblo that prompted the evacuation of an animal shelter, park and nearby neighborhoods on April 10, 2022.

Colorado is already seeing a big increase in high wind and dangerous fire weather warnings for the month of April — and it’s only half over.

The National Weather Service had issued 26 Red Flag Warnings statewide as of Wednesday morning. That’s compared to 37 for all of April 2021. National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Heavener in Pueblo said he expects more warnings this week.

“It's been a really, really busy month when it comes to fire weather concerns, unfortunately,” Heavener said.

Forecasters are also recording higher-than-average wind speeds, Heavener said. For example, the average wind speed in Colorado Springs for the first half of April has been 14.5 mph compared to the 11 or 12 mph average recorded during that same time frame in recent years which Heavener considers a significant increase.

As of Wednesday morning, federal forecasters had also already issued four high wind warnings in southeastern Colorado this month — more than for all of April 2021. Heavener said that stronger winds are generated by how high- and low-pressure weather systems interact and move through the state. High-pressure areas located west of low-pressure areas often create strong winds.

“Think of standing between two large buildings and the wind coming through there is exacerbated,” he said. As the wind blows through, it’s squeezed and “acts as a wind tunnel.”

A dry landscape also contributes to high winds because it allows more efficient mixing of the atmosphere. This mixing, combined with Colorado’s higher altitudes, can make the atmosphere more unstable and likely to generate strong winds.

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