The National Weather Service on Mar. 3 issued a red flag warning for parts of central and southeastern Montana due to dry winds that could lead to “extreme fire behavior.”
Billings National Weather Service Meteorologist Todd Chambers says the red flag warning affects Yellowstone, Bighorn, Carbon, Golden Valley, Musselshell, Powder River, Rosebud and Treasure counties until 6 P.M. Wednesday. He says the conditions leading to the red flag warning are two-fold.
“First part of it is, we don’t have any snow on the ground in a lot of areas so it’s been fairly dry," Chambers says.
In addition, he says this year has seen some exceptionally strong winds.
“It’s not usual to have wind gusts over 60 miles an hour over such a broad area for several days in a row.”
Chambers says during red flag warnings, people need to take extra precautions to prevent sparks. He says that includes not driving through tall, dry grass or letting chains drag on the highway.
“Certainly no ag burning or burning trash for the next couple of days here until we can get those winds to calm down,” Chambers says.
The Service has also issued a high wind warning for most of the state east of the Continental Divide through Wednesday evening, after which gentler winds and higher humidity are in the forecast.
Chambers says it’s not unusual to have a few red flag warnings in the winter months.
There have already been a few wildland fires this year. The Belt Rural Volunteer Fire Department responded to fires in Judith Basin and Cascade counties in February.
The National Weather Service clocked wind speeds of 71 miles per hour in Big Timber earlier today. In Billings, winds hit 62 miles per hour. Cape Air’s afternoon flights were all canceled.