Extreme wildfire potential is a possibility this weekend, especially Sunday, according to the National Weather Service's Norman forecast office.
Forecasters expect a combination of weather features coming together by Sunday afternoon that will lead to hot, dry and windy conditions across a fairly large area of Oklahoma.
Some areas of the state could see winds gusting to 55 mph Sunday, with temperatures in the 80s and a relative humidity below 20 percent.
The weather service is anticipating that the dry line will move east of Interstate 35 by early afternoon with humidity levels falling into the 10 to 15 percent range behind the dry line. Also, west and southwest winds are expected to increase to 30 to 40 mph with higher gusts.
The weather service said the most likely time frame for wildfires will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Plus, there's dry vegetation with a majority of the state in the severe to extreme drought categories, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Sunday's fire threat could continue well into the evening.
Firefighters in Oklahoma City are bracing for the possibility of wildfires Sunday with a task force in place that will be ready to respond to all grass fires, fire Battalion Chief Brian Stanaland said. Quick response times can keep grass fires from spreading, he said.
Fire danger will last for several days, said John Pike, a meteorologist in Norman.
“There's a slight chance of thunderstorms,” Pike said. “We'll have high to extreme fire danger through the weekend, especially on Sunday.”
Numerous counties across the state are under burn bans.
In Oklahoma City, no outdoor cooking with charcoal is allowed, only gas.
Since April 1, grass fires have been frequent each day, Stanaland said. Going into Friday, firefighters had responded to 60 grass fires in Oklahoma City since April 1, he said.
Stanaland said a shift change of firefighting personnel will take place at 7 a.m. Sunday, and those firefighters will have had four days off.
On Sunday a wildfire task force will consist of three brush pumper trucks, one heavy water tanker, one engine and one battalion chief to be dispatched to all grass fire reports.
“If we receive information that a fire is extremely small we might not send everyone but nine out of 10 times we send the full task force,” Stanaland said.
There was a report of at least one tornado Friday night in northern Oklahoma near Kildare but the twister not touch down. There were reports of minor damage in several counties.
The Oklahoma City area forecast calls for:
Today: Partly sunny, with a high near 90. Windy with a south wind 14 to 17 mph, increasing to between 22 and 25 mph. Winds could gust as high as 36 mph.
Tonight: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 63. South wind between 20 and 24 mph with gusts as high as 37 mph.
Sunday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny with a high near 83. Windy with a south, southwest wind 20 to 23 mph increasing to between 30 and 33 mph. Winds could gust as high as 50 mph.
Sunday Night: Mostly clear and windy with a low around 46.
Monday: Sunny with a high near 76.
Monday Night: Partly cloudy with a low around 52.
Tuesday: Mostly sunny with a high near 82.
Tuesday Night: Mostly cloudy with a low around 59.
Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy with a high near 77.
Wednesday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy with a low around 58.
Thursday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny with a high near 74.