A red flag warning will go into effect at noon today for dangerous fire weather conditions in south-central Montana and north-central Wyoming, according to the National Weather Service in Billings.
Glasgow, Great Falls and Missoula also have red flag warnings scheduled to begin at noon for portions of those areas.
Billings is included in a red flag warning area where high temperatures of between 95 and 100 are expected to combine with low humidity and gusting winds. The record high for Sept. 4 in Billings is 100 degrees and was set in the 1950, according to NWS Billings meteorologist Brian Tesar.
"It's nearly 20 degrees above normal," Tesar said.
Sept. 4 is also the latest date on record that Billings has recorded a temperature of 100. The last time Billings reached 100 was Aug. 12, 2018 when the city had a daily high of 103.
A cold front is expected to cause a shift in winds between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Winds from the west earlier in the day will reach between 10 and 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Humidity could range from 10% to 20%. Winds will come from the northwest when the cold front arrives, according to the forecast. Lightning is not expected in Billings with the cold front, Tesar said.
"Low humidities, hot temperatures, gusty winds, and wind shift with a cold front will create erratic fire behavior," according to the warning.
Fire fuels, especially grasses on south facing slopes under sustained exposure to the sun have dried out, making them more flammable. Tesar said Yellowstone and Stillwater County have especially dry fuels and also noted that recent small fires in Big Horn county have burned from cured dry grass into green grass.
"We always try to get word out to people to be really careful about anything that's going to spark," Tesar said.
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The NWS Billings warning is scheduled to expire at midnight.
Montana counties under the NWS Billings warning include Yellowstone, Musselshell, Big Horn, Carbon, Park, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Golden Valley, Wheatland and Gallatin. In Wyoming the warning includes Sheridan County.
Additional areas affected include the Custer Gallatin National Forest, the Beartooth Ranger District Custer National Forest, the Crow Reservation and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area.
The NWS Glasgow, NWS Great Falls and NWS Missoula red flag warnings are set to expire at 8 p.m.
NWS Glasgow's warning affects the Lower Missouri River Breaks including the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and southern Petroleum and Garfield counties. That warning forecasts gusting winds, relative humidity at 13% and highs in the mid 80s to low 90s.
"New fire starts could quickly spread and become difficult to control," the warning says.
NWS Great Falls' warning covers eastern Glacier county, Toole County, central and eastern Pondera County, Liberty County, Hill County, Blaine County, Choteau County and Fergus County. Other areas under that warning include Lewis and Clark National Forest Rocky Mountain District, Rocky Mountain Front, the Lincoln Ranger District of the Helena National Forest, central and eastern Lewis and Clark National Forest areas and the Helena and Townsend Ranger Districts of the Helena National Forest.
Those areas could see highs in the mid- to upper-80s or low 90s with relative humidity between 15 and 20 percent. Winds to the west will blow between 10 and 20 miles per hour, with gusts up to 35 mph.
A red flag warning out of NWS Missoula covers Deer Lodge, west Beaverhead County and east Beaverhead County. those areas could see winds to the west between 10 and 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Minimum humidity is forecast to reach between 13% and 17%.