NWS Valley issues most fire warnings ever in 2022

VALLEY, Neb. (KLKN) – The National Weather Service has only tracked red flag warnings since 2006, and in 2022, they issued the highest number of warnings in 15 years.

NWS issued 27 red flag warnings and 25 wind advisories in 2022, more than doubling the previous year.

“A red flag warning is issued for fire weather conditions when it’s very dry and when it’s very windy,” said NWS Lead Meteorologist Van DeWald. “It’s an alert for the fire departments that burning could get out of control.”

Lincoln is nine inches below the usual amount of rainfall per year, making 2022 the 15th driest year since the 1800s.

DeWald says that combined with dry winds, the conditions are perfect for fires.

“They kind of go hand-in-hand, sometimes when a drought develops, it’s dry and dusty, and that will sometimes enhance the wind,” DeWald said. “That windy and dry just created a bad fire season.”

Nebraska hasn’t seen a drought this extreme in 10 years. After the flood in 2019, there’s been a significant drop in precipitation.

“Last winter, it was the least snowy winter on record as well,” DeWald said. “It was kind of compounding that we did not have a lot of snow last winter, and then we had a very dry year, and that has led to severe drought conditions across most of the region.”

The NWS also issued much fewer flash flood warnings, issuing eight in 2022, as opposed to 47 in 2019.

“The challenge is because we’re in the severe drought now, it’s hard to get out of a drought in the wintertime,” DeWald said. “We’re really going to depend on spring rains to be generous and plentiful to help bring us out of that drought, but it’s going to take a long time.”

Lincoln is six inches behind normal snowfall this time of year, and while there’s still some winter left to make up for it, DeWald expects the drought conditions to continue well into 2023.

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