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Forest Service unit in Marble Falls due to wildfire outbreak risk

Texas A&M Forest Service

A unit of the Texas A&M Forest Service set up Thursday, March 17, in the Charley Taylor Arena, 3053 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls, due to the high risk of wildfire in the area over the weekend. The unit will remain in the area throughout the weekend to provide assistance in case of a Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

The Highland Lakes fire forecast danger is “very high” Friday, March 18, “moderate” to “high” Saturday, and “very high” to “extreme” Sunday, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. As a result, a service unit parked itself in Marble Falls on Thursday. 

“The Texas A&M Forest Service is staging out here because of increased fire danger,” said Walter Flocke, Regional Wildland Urban Interface coordinator with the service. “We’re seeing the potential of a Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak because of high winds and low humidity.” 

Made up of personnel from the Smithville task force, the unit set up in Charley Taylor Arena, 3053 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls, and will remain on standby throughout the weekend. If weather conditions don’t change, however, it might extend its stay, Flocke said. 

According to the Forest Service website, a Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak is a dangerous weather phenomena that can take place in environments experiencing “dry vegetation, dry west-southwest winds across an area with low relative humidity, above-average surface temperatures, an unstable atmosphere, and clear, sunny skies.” It usually takes place during the winter and spring months of La Nina years. 

While the National Weather Service forecast has a chance of thunderstorms on Monday, March 21, the Highland Lakes remains under elevated wildfire risk through the weekend.

“Periods of elevated to near critical fire weather conditions are expected each afternoon and evening (Friday-Sunday, March 18-20) across parts of our area,” according to a statement from the Austin-San Antonio NWS office. No Red Flag warning had been issued as of 8:30 a.m. Friday, March 18, but the service stated there is a potential for such warning due to the critical fire weather.

A cool front moved across the Texas Hill Country late Thursday, bringing lower humidity, highs in the 70s, and winds in the 20-mph range with gusts up to 30 mph on Friday.

Winds will subside Saturday and Sunday with breezes at about 10 mph and gusts up to 20 mph. Highs should climb into the upper 70s both days.

On Monday, the Highland Lakes could get a slight reprieve from the dry conditions with showers and thunderstorms. The NWS forecast has a 90 percent chance of rain and storms during the day March 21, dropping to 70 percent into the night. Rainfall accumulation is expected to be a quarter-inch to an inch with higher amounts in isolated pockets.

By Tuesday, March 22, the sun returns.

Staff writer Brigid Cooley contributed to this report.

daniel@thepicayune.com