Weather specialist added to 416 wildfire crew as lightning, Tropical Storm Bud loom
A meteorologist equipped with sophisticated atmospheric gear to gauge the potential danger of expected lightning strikes
June 15, 2018
As the 416 fire grows more mammoth in the San Juan National Forest 13 miles north of Durango, firefighters brought in a meteorologist equipped with sophisticated atmospheric gear and a weather balloon to gauge the potential danger of expected lightning strikes.
The wildfire has now consumed 32,076 acres since June 1, and hot, dry weather conditions have been anything but kind to the 1,137 firefighters tasked to the wildfire. Fire commanders worried conditions could get much worse Thursday with Tropical Storm Bud making landfall and heading in their direction. Although heavy rains could quench the flames, lightning strikes could multiply problems. On Thursday, they experienced isolated thunderstorms with light rains and lightning strikes.
A red flag warning is in place Friday for the fire area from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"It's all part of the puzzle here," Incident Meteorologist Jeff Colton remarked in a video about his firefighting role.
He sent up a weather balloon carrying equipment as high as 40,000 feet in the sky to help them calculate relative humidity and measure barometric pressure and wind speed. Following a 90-minute balloon flight, Colton, who works for the National Weather Service, sent information to the agency's Washington D.C. office to crunch numbers on a supercomputer, he said.
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