Flash drought increasing across Southeast drives wildfire growth

Dry conditions are exacerbating the wildfire season with hundreds of fires burning from Texas to Virginia.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor data doesn't offer a hopeful outlook for parched areas in the South, Southeast and Midwest, where wildfires aided by dry conditions are prompting states of emergency.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday, dry conditions across the South and Southeast continue to "rapidly deteriorate, leading to flash drought and widespread expansion of drought conditions."


Dry conditions are exacerbating the wildfire season, with hundreds of fires burning from Texas to Virginia. In the Midwest, moisture has been basically nonexistent since the last update, with some snow reaching only the Upper Midwest in the past week.

In North Carolina, where more than half of the state is in drought, Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency due to the existing threat and potential for wildfires. The Poplar Drive Fire near Edneyville destroyed several homes and continues to threaten others. 

South of Andrews, the Collett Ridge Fire has consumed more than 5,300 acres and continues to burn with only 15% containment. 

Firefighters working to contain the fire are contending with falling leaves, adding fuel to the fire along with the dry conditions. A burn ban is in place for all 30 western counties in the Tar Heel State.

Additionally, 10 state parks in western North Carolina have closed all backcountry campsites through at least Dec. 1 because of the increased wildfire risk, according to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.

Dry conditions in the Carolinas, Virginia and Kentucky have worsened since the last Drought Monitor report a week ago. 

"Rapid drying continues along the Atlantic coast from South Carolina to Virginia as flash drought expands across the Southeast," according to the Drought Monitor report. 


Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency to help firefighters after two wildfires broke containment lines last weekend, including the Quaker Run Fire burning near the eastern side of Shenandoah National Park.

Rangers have closed streams and rivers inside Shenandoah National Park to fishing because of drought and high water temperatures.

Tennessee and Georgia saw worsening drought this past week, with exceptional drought now along the tri-state border with Alabama and Georgia. 

Multiple fires are burning near Knoxville and along the Tennessee-Georgia line. The Georgia Forestry Commission reported at least five fires driven by drought conditions are being fought in North Georgia.

Exceptional drought expands along Gulf Coast

Over half of Louisiana is in exceptional drought – the worst level – where wildfires are smothering the Gulf Coast with smoke that has created dangerous driving conditions and unhealthy air. 

The National Interagency Fire Center fire outlook predicts significant wildland fire potential across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii for November. 

Despite the lack of rain, there was some heat relief in the South, with areas of Louisiana and Mississippi about 8 degrees below average. However, that wasn't enough to help the drought conditions in either state. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, rapid drought deterioration is spilling eastward into Mississippi, resulting in more exceptional drought. 


Mississippi is nearing 90% of the state in extreme and exceptional drought.

Drought is persistent along Florida’s west coast from the Panhandle through the Everglades, with extreme drought in the Panhandle and Tampa Bay areas. Currently, the Sunshine State has one wildfire burning. The Wild Heron Way Fire has burned more than 300 acres and is 80% contained.

Rain on the way for some

The FOX Forecast Center is tracking an approaching cold front bringing beneficial rain to the drought-stricken South through this weekend. 

Between 3 and 5 inches of rain is forecast along the Gulf Coast through Wednesday, which would be a month's worth of rain for some spots in just a matter of days.

Consistent precipitation is needed to improve drought conditions across multiple regions of the U.S., including the South, Southeast and Midwest. 

Rain through Wednesday.
(FOX Weather)