Developing drought over southern Colorado during the back half of 2021 will combine with very strong wind region wide to produce a day of critical fire danger on Friday.

Use the arrows in the slideshow above to see how wind changes during the day over your neighborhood or other areas of southern Colorado

Wind quickly increases over the mountains southwest of Pueblo Friday morning and between 7-9 a.m. Some gusts may near 80mph along the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Wind will increase over the Front Range and plains through the morning with widespread, persistent gusts between 50 and 70 mph from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The air will be moving into the state from the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico and will combine with the wind and drought-stressed grasses and trees to promote conditions ripe for explosive fire growth should any occur. Be alert on Friday to smoke or flames to your southwest — fires will spread to the northeast.

A High Wind Warning is currently up for southern Colorado starting at 9 a.m. Friday.

With the extreme fire weather conditions on the way, the National Weather Service has also issued a Red Flag Warning for Friday. It also begins at 9 a.m.

Existing fires in Arizona and New Mexico are likely to bring smoke into parts of Colorado during Thursday and Friday afternoon. You can see in the computer projection below that models are already latching onto this idea for Friday, with near surface smoke increasing over the plains Friday afternoon as an existing fire southwest of Raton is likely going to be active thanks to the strong wind.

We can use this forecast to approximate the direction that any new fires that happen to start in Colorado on Friday will spread. If you see smoke or flames to your southwest, be ready to evacuate if needed —particularly if you are close enough to see flames. Fires will rapidly be spreading to the northeast.

Although we’ll be cooler on Saturday with highs in the 60s and 70s, we will still be a bit windy behind the cold front and fire danger will remain high. The wind will be out of the W or NW, and lighter than Friday. Showers and even cooler air are possible on Sunday.