While the South has been soaked with heavy rain and flash flooding this week, portions of the northern Plains and Midwest have remained bone dry.
Related: Grass fire smoke shuts down North Dakota highway
Mother Nature won’t be much help Thursday. Relative humidity will be very low, below 20%, during the peak heating hours of the afternoon. This could be particularly problematic across much of North Dakota and Minnesota where wind gusts will reach 40 mph.
The combination of the dry air, along with drought conditions across much of the region, creates an ideal setup for new wildfires to spark. Gusty winds may spread existing or new fires out of control, potentially blowing smoke into the paths of truck drivers. If smoke gets thick enough in any particular area, road closures will be possible.
This may impact travel on sections of Interstates 29 and 94, as well as U.S. Highway 2, in places such as Minot, Grand Forks, Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota, in addition to Bemidji, Fergus Falls, St. Cloud and Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued red flag warnings for these areas.
The wildfire threat diminishes a bit Friday in the Upper Midwest as winds back off. At the same time, the risk may increase across western Colorado and areas of Nevada north of Las Vegas. The NWS has posted a fire weather watch for western Colorado.
Truckers can help prevent wildfires by not parking in grassy areas and not dragging chains.
Other notable weather
Look for mountains snow Friday, or a snow-rain mix, in the Cascades and northern Rockies. This won’t be a major storm, but drivers may have to chain up.
Related: States with the strictest chain laws
Thunderstorms on Thursday could produce isolated areas of severe winds and large hail in the Florida Peninsula, as well as portions of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. Friday and Saturday the chance for severe storms moves to the central and southern Plains as a new frontal system approaches those areas.
Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.
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