Weather in Riverhead over the past two months is the driest it has been in recorded history.
According to Joey Picca, meteorologist at the National Weather Service at Upton, a red flag warning is in effect again on Tuesday from noon till 8 p.m.
The red flag warning, issued for the 5th time this year, is in effect across the entire tri-state area and indicates low relative humidity levels and high winds. Today's forecast calls for gusty northwest winds of 10 to 15 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 25 miles per hour, and dry fine fuels.
Relative humidity is expected to be as low as 20 percent. Peak winds and the lowest relative humidity will coincide during the afternoon hours, meaning there is an increased risk of fire spreading if a blaze ignites. High winds and dry fuels create a significantly elevated fire growth potential, Picca said.
"It's staying dry, and with the dry vegetation elevation, there's a risk for fire growth," Picca said.
The area, Picca said, is experiencing severe drought conditions. The last time the area experienced severe drought conditions was in August, 2002. In September, 2010, moderate drought conditions were declared.
With only 5.22 inches of rain recorded in April, through April 12, the conditions are the driest recorded since officials began keeping records at Islip in 1984, Pica said. In March, only 0.99 inches were recorded -- 3.45 inches below normal. "It's also the driest March on record at Islip," Picca said.
With a red flad warning in effect, Picca cautions residents not to ignite any open flame outside. Do not toss cigarette butts out the window, Picca said, and avoid any activities, such as grilling, that could start a fire. "Once it catches, it doesn't take much, with the gusty winds and how dry things are out there, to really start spreading. It can overwhelm people in just a few short moments," he said.
Drought conditions, Picca said, have followed a dry winter characterized by a an upper level pattern that dominated the area during a dray and warm winter. "We need the rainfall," he said.