Severe drought spreads across WNC, raising the risk of wildfires
Weeks of little or no rain are taking a toll across Western North Carolina, leaving the region parched at primed for wildfires.
According to the latest map released by the state’s Drought Management Advisory Council, almost all the counties in the BPR listening area are now in a severe drought, a big bump up from just a week ago when only a handful were in the dark orange category, the second of the four drought classifications based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Buncombe and Haywood counties are among the dozens still considered to be in a moderate drought.
"This is one of the top five driest September and October periods on record for much of western North Carolina,” Corey Davis, assistant state climatologist with the NC State Climate Office, said. “Since Sept. 1, Charlotte has had only 1.86 inches of rain, which is the driest start to fall there since 1961. In southern mountain locations such as Asheville and Murphy, the last time it was this dry at this time of year was in 2016, which was part of a memorably extreme and impactful drought.”
The prolonged dry spell comes at the peak of the state’s fall wildfire season, which runs from October through early December. According to the Climate Office’s Daily Fire Danger map, over the weekend, the region will fluctuate between the high and very high category, where fires start easily from all causes and spread rapidly.
Clear skies, low humidity, and warmer temperatures, are fueling the Collet Ridge fire just south of Andrews, which began October 23, and according to the latest statement from the US/NC Forest Service, has now scorched 110 acres.