Fires and storms

Credit: Clint Hansen/Maui Real Estate Radio

We’ve all seen the heartbreaking pictures from the Maui wildfires and you may have heard how Hurricane Dora, some 600 miles south, played such a role in the light-speed spread of those flames. The weather set up, which included severe drought, also had a strong high pressure well north of Maui and the winds from both converged across the drought stricken islands with up to 85 mph speeds. Any sparks or flames would spread too fast to control.

Any flames spread quickly across the islands

To be sure, Maui, just like Texas, does have occasional wildfires, but never with these winds. We had our turn with tropical storm winds and fire back on Labor Day weekend of 2011. You may recall the blistering 100° days all summer and the extreme drought across the entire state. A number of wildfires had occurred, even near the Houston area. Grassfires had become fairly common. But on Sept. 4, Tropical Storm Lee moved into Louisiana. Here’s the weather map from that day:

Credit: National Weather Service

The upper level map shows the low in Louisiana and a high in Arizona with central Texas locked between the two.

Credit: National Weather Service

Just as Maui had a low (Dora) south and a high North, Bastrop had a low (Lee) East and a high West. Winds from both converged over the area racing at 65mph. In fact, the winds over Bastrop toppled trees onto power lines which fell to a dry ground full of tinder fuels. The sparks started the fire, the winds blew it out of control burning 50 square miles of the Bastrop County Complex.

With our drought and heat across the state right now some people are hoping for a tropical storm to fix things--but it won’t and, as you can see, may cause a lot more harm than good. For the most part, we just have to be patient and wait for the Heat Dome to weaken (the seasonal shift will help along with a change in the Jet Stream) and then the rains and cool return.

Saying that, don’t let your guard down on the tropics. We’ve had a quiet summer, but the National Hurricane Center has actually gone up on the number of storms and hurricanes from their May forecast. Here’s the new one showing a couple of more hurricanes expected along with more major storms:

Latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center

Keep in mind, the January subtropical storm and the four tropical storms we’ve had do count in those numbers, but we’ve yet to have a single hurricane. And back in May the forecast was for a 30% chance of an above average season while that has doubled now:

Latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center

A busy hurricane season is yet to come. Meanwhile, our hottest temps so far this summer are upon us, but so is the weekend. Make it a cool, safe one!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.