Wind, drought contribute to threat of wildfires

By Moanike'ala Nabarro
Published On: Sep 04 2012 05:16:02 PM HST
Updated On: Sep 04 2012 07:27:47 PM HST

The National Weather Service issues a red flag warning to Leeward areas due to high winds and humid weather.

HONOLULU -

The recent windy weather along with the ongoing drought increases the threat of wildfires.

The danger is so real, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning on Tuesday.

"Upstream of the islands, you have drier than normal air for this time of year," said Ian Morrison of the National Weather Service.

Rainfall, humidity and wind speed are factors Morrison and his team consider before declaring a fire risk.

"Relative humidity has to be 45 percent or less so it has to be dry and the wind has to be 20 mph or greater," said Morrison.

The dry season runs from April through October.  Leeward sections of each island are at greater risk for fire because trees and shrubs are dried out.  According to the National Weather Service, the leeward sides of Maui and the Big Island face the greatest danger.

"Big Island, in the Kohala area -- all that -- they go back and forth in between the highest levels of drought to moderate drought in the past year, so they've been dry for quite some time," said Morrison.

The dry conditions helped fuel at least six fire in Ka'u earlier this year scorching more than 6,500 acres.

Morrison said there are precautions people can take to try and protect their property.

"Sometimes it's prudent to clear out any shrubs that are near your house, just in case," said Morrison.

Relief is in sight.  Tropical moisture south of Hawaii will eventually find its way to the islands, but that doesn't typically happen until late October.  Until then, the state may face an elevated risk of wildfires.

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