High winds and low humidity will create dangerous conditions in which wildfires could develop across eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin Sunday afternoon and evening, the National Weather Service warned Saturday.
Twin Cities metro area counties are included in the “fire weather watch,” which says that winds of 15 to 20 miles per hour, gusting to 30 mph, will kick up Sunday afternoon, just as humidity levels drop to less than 25 percent.
The watch, which covers most of eastern Minnesota, from the Canadian to the Iowa borders, will take effect at 1 p.m. Sunday and run until 7 p.m.
While nothing to blink at, a watch is a lesser alert than the more serious “red flag warning,” said Jacob Beitlich, a meteorologist with the Weather Service’s regional office in Chanhassen.
Beitlich said watches are triggered by “pretty rigorous criteria,” such as the 20 percent humidity expected Sunday in eastern Minnesota
Humidity will be higher than that — around 30 percent — in western Minnesota, thus less danger and no fire watch there, he said. Usually it’s the other way around, he said — western Minnesota will have a higher risk than eastern. Not this time.
Still, Sunday is “not going to be a good time to burn” anywhere in Minnesota, he said, urging people to go to the DNR’s website to check on current fire danger ratings and burning restrictions.
Weather Service and DNR personnel are likely to confer around 4 a.m. Sunday about whether to upgrade the watch, he said. The former will look at fresh weather conditions, while the latter will assess the availability and condition of potential fire materials.
While grass and brush wildfires are common in early spring, before greenery bursts out, the addition of high winds makes the threat more deadly.