Drought in East Tennessee may last until spring, increasing fire danger

The Knoxville area has been down 8 inches of rainfall for the year compared to the average.

Dry conditions are fueling wildfires across Tennessee, with multiple major wildfires burning in the East Tennessee region. 

In Cocke County, the Neddy Mountain fire continued to burn Saturday night, covering more than 300 acres. 

The U.S. Forest Service called the fire activity 'extreme,' with meteorologists at the National Weather Service saying everything is dry because there's no moisture in the air or the ground. 

"The drought is pretty significant. We were looking at drought conditions going into August at most places but it's really been exacerbated from August on," said meteorologist Eric Holweg at the NWS office in Morristown. 

According to Holweg, there's no end in sight for the drought conditions across the region. 

"It's kind of unfortunate. We could probably be in some sort of a drought for maybe even as far as the spring,"  he said. 

The latest precipitation numbers in the Knoxville area are far below normal for this time of year, and low rainfall had been recorded since April. 

The Knoxville area has been eight inches under rainfall averages for the year. 

"There's been very little precipitation," Holweg said. 

The drought conditions in Chattanooga are far worse, according to Holweg. They are down 19 inches of rainfall for the year. 

He said a mixture of dry conditions, low humidity and atmospheric changes can cause fires to roar. 

"We are all sitting on top of a pretty dry fuel right now and it doesn't take much to get a fire started," he added. 

To learn more about the drought conditions in East Tennessee, you can visit the NWS here

(© 2016 WBIR)


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