Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Dry weather leads to a surge in Quebec forest fires

A dry spring in many portions of central and western Quebec has lead to a rapid increase in forest fires. A burn ban remains in effect across all provincial forests. (CBC)

A cold and very dry winter in southwestern Quebec and the rapid onset of warm weather has lead to an increase in forest and brush fires across the entire region. On Monday strong southwest winds gusted close to 80km/h in The St. Lawrence and Richelieu Valley's. The winds combined with very low relative humidity readings, and in many cases human error,  helped produce dozens of brush fires from eastern Ontario into upstate New York and Vermont. Most of the fires were contained thanks to the great work by local firefighters, and damage was limited. The strong winds also toppled some trees in and around Montreal.

The fire threat has been lowered in Quebec today from extreme to very high by SOPFEU. It is expected to remain that way for the balance of this week. An outdoor burning ban remains in effect in all Quebec forests province wide. As of this morning 36 active fires were reported in the province, with a total of 114 so far in 2015. The total land area affected is in excess of 140 hectares (350 acres). Those numbers represent a significant increase from the 10 year average of 84 fires and 72 hectares. A burn ban is also in effect in the entire City of Ottawa.

WARM Weather
On Monday, temperatures soared to 28C (83F) in Montreal, well above the normal of 17C (63F) but short of the record set in 1944 of 30C (86F). Record high temperatures were set in St Anicet at 28C as well as St Hubert. A weak cold front produced about 2mm of rain overnight in Montreal but sunshine has returned today. It will remain sunny for the balance of the work week, with warm highs in the 20's and lows near 12C. By Friday we may even flirt with 30C in Montreal. This means the fire risk will remain very high and no outdoor burning is advised anywhere in the region, including Quebec, Ontario and New England.

Meanwhile the tropics are showing some signs of life with perhaps a system developing off the Florida coast by the end of the week. It is early in the season, but not unheard of for such a storm to develop. If it does it would be Ana, but at this time it has a less than 40% chance of happening.

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