Dakotas experiencing record heat, high fire dangerSIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Record heat is blanketing the Dakotas as winter comes to a close, making wildfires, rather than flooding, the main concern this spring.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Record heat is blanketing the Dakotas as winter comes to a close, making wildfires, rather than flooding, the main concern this spring.
National Weather Service said nearly a dozen cities set high-temperature records on Tuesday, from 59 degrees at Grand Forks in northeastern North Dakota to 75 degrees in Rapid City in southwestern South Dakota. Some South Dakota cities including Pierre, Mitchell and Yankton made it into the 80s on Tuesday.
The weather service forecast temperatures in the two states in the 50s, 60s and 70s for the rest of the week, with more record highs possible.
Overly wet conditions last spring led to widespread flooding in the Dakotas. This year's warm, dry weather heading into the start of spring next week has increased the wildfire danger in the two states. Several counties have implemented burn bans, and officials are cautioning that the fire danger at Black Hills National Forest in western South Dakota is “very high.”
Forest management officer Todd Pechota said in a statement that the previous two years of wet weather has resulted in an above-normal amount of forest material to feed wildfires.
“That, coupled with this winter's below-average snowfall and recent warm, dry windy weather, presents significant challenges to firefighting personnel,” he said.
Fires already are cropping up in the two states: three blazes burned at least 1,000 acres in south central North Dakota on Monday; and a Tuesday blaze scorched about 20 acres near Badlands National park in southwest South Dakota. Fire officials are urging the public to be cautious.
“Grasses are extremely dry and fire will spread rapidly from even a spark,” Jay Esperance, director of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Division, said in a statement.
Mary Senger, emergency manager in North Dakota's Burleigh County, said wildfires will continue until the region gets moisture.
“It's dry out there and with a lot of vegetation to fuel the fire,” she told The Bismarck Tribune. “It's compounded by high winds.”
Another worry is rapidly deteriorating ice conditions on lakes. The deadline in North Dakota for winter anglers to get fish houses off lakes is Thursday, but state wildlife officials last week urged anglers to remove them early. Some people did not heed the thin ice warning: vehicles have fallen through the ice this week on Pipestem Lake and Devils Lake in eastern North Dakota. No injuries were reported.
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