Dust Storms & Wildfires

It was mild and sunny along the Front Range urban corridor this morning but a dense band of clouds obscured the Continental Divide to our west.  Arriving just after noon, this cold front unleashed strong winds, gusting to 50 mph.

In many areas across Metro Denver, plumes of dust were generated by the winds, a common development in this semiarid region; quarries, construction sites and plowed fields often provide most of the particulates.  The winds themselves were the product of high pressure across the Pacific Northwest and low pressure over the Southern Plains (currently centered over southeastern Colorado); as the front pushed across the city, intense winds plummeted from the Front Range and scoured the Piedmont, dropping temperatures from the mid 60s F to the upper forties.

Far to our southeast, wildfires are burning across Oklahoma, aggravated by dry vegetation, air temperatures in the mid 80s F and potent winds ahead of the same cold front.  Since the atmosphere over the Great Plains is "moisture starved," little precipitation is expected with this Pacific storm system until it moves farther east, tapping into moisture from the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.  A mild upslope behind the front may bring light showers to the Front Range this evening but there will be little relief across the Southern Plains where the wildfire risk is extreme.