ALL CLEAR: Weather Authority Alert Day through Sunday, Nov. 19 lifted

The Matts Creek wildfire continues to spread, causing poor air quality in parts of our area

Fire chances drop this week

The rising humidity and low winds on Monday limit the ability for fire to spread or new fires to form. Additional rain on Tuesday keeps our fire chances low through the rest of the month.


Sunday Afternoon Update

Calm winds are cooperating with us to keep Sunday free of many new or worsening fires. Conditions are still dry, but relief comes on Monday as we get moisture in the air ahead of our next cold front.

Winds are still generally calm with rising humidity on Monday

While we are still dry on Monday the dewpoint raises from the 20s into the 30s. The extra moisture in the air hurts the chances for new fires to start. That moisture eventually turns into clouds late on Monday with some showers before midnight.

Showers are less than impressive early on Tuesday

Early on Tuesday the showers are very light, but just a few hours later they spread out and cover most of the region. That means some of the worst hit areas from the drought get much needed relief.

By noon on Tuesday almost all of us have rain

Accumulations up to two inches are possible trough the entire system with extra showers lingering into Wednesday. Some minor flooding could even develop due to so much rain in a short amount of time.

Accumulations above two inches are possible

We get more chances to add rain into the ground later in the week. After Thankgiving light showers return bringing mothnly rain totals closer to average.

Even after the front is done we have extra rain coming late in the week

We don’t totally cure the drought anytime soon, but this week’s rain will help keep the fire risk low.

Sunday Morning Update

Your Local Weather Authority is continuing to track the current wildfire risk. For today, the threat is very high. This is due to winds that will be breezy this afternoon and low levels of humidity. A reminder, all of us should be avoiding lighting fires outdoors until further notice.

Today's Risk

The air quality will decrease for northern portions of Bedford county, western portions of Amherst, and southern portions of Rockbridge county today. Below is a look at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. You’ll notice the worst air quality will be closest to the Matts Creek fire, but concerns spread primarily to the east today.

Smoke Moves East Today From Matts Creek Fire

Smoke will also be spreading toward the east today due to westerly winds. We start off the day with minimal smoke and then skies become hazy through the afternoon. Once the sun sets, our skies clear up a bit.

Smoke For Today

Here is a look at what Your Local Weather Authority is tracking for today and beyond. Dry and sunny conditions for most of our Sunday. Then we turn partly cloudy on Monday and see an increase in humidity. By Tuesday afternoon, we will see some much needed rain.

A look at the next couple of days

Saturday Afternoon Update

Our Weather Authority Alert Day continues through Sunday as low humidity, in addition to severe drought, makes additional fires possible. While wind speeds are calmer on Sunday than they were on Saturday the lower humidity means we still have a risk of spreading fires or new fires developing. Air quality is still poor for people near the Matt’s Creek fire or in the smoke plume as it moves.

Sunday’s wind is noticeably calmer than the gusts to 40 mph we had through Saturday. That helps reduce the fire risk somewhat, but the extra dry air we have gives a boost to potential outbreaks.

While not as high as Saturday, Sunday still presents a threat of new fires

Dewpoints drop from the already dry 30s into the 20s on Sunday. That means air would need to cool to the 20s to even start condensing; the long story short is that we have very dry conditions without any relief coming until Monday.

Low dewpoints mean drier conditions through our region

One benefit of calmer winds on Sunday is the limited spread of dense smoke. Areas that have seen poor air quality this week near the fire still aren’t great, but the smoke plume does not trail nearly as far out. Lexington and Bedford have generally good conditions.

Smoke is more limited through Sunday afternoon

Saturday Morning Update

A fire weather watch is in effect for today, this will last from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Burn bans are still in effect too.

A watch is in effect for the RV, Lyn, and SS

The wildfire risk for today is extremely high. Gusty winds will build in from the north and west and could reach up to 30-40mph by the middle of the afternoon. We will also see a drop in humidity. These two conditions make wildfires likely to spread or spark up.

Today's Risk

Smoke will be shifting directions today. Instead of the smoke moving toward the north and east today, it will move south and southeast. This will impact the counties of Bedford, Amherst, Campbell, Pittsylvania, and Halifax.

Though these counties will see the majority of the impacts from today’s smoke, counties neighboring these areas will see impacts too.

Today's impacts

Air quality will begin to deteriorate this afternoon once humidity levels drop and winds pick up. Here is a look at where the worst air quality will be tracking this afternoon.

Who sees the worst air quality

Hazardous air will be closest to the fire and will spread to neighboring areas. Unhealthy and sensitive air will extend into southern Bedford county. Fortunately, air quality improves a few hours after sunset. Unfortunately, air quality will remain a concern during the daytime hours for the next several days.

Today's conditions

Our next big rain chances come this upcoming week. Tuesday will likely bring widespread showers, and at the moment, rain total estimates are close to an inch. This will definitely help with drought conditions, but it won’t entirely diminish them.

The next 5 days

Friday Evening Update

The increased risk of fire on Saturday due to dry conditions and high wind gusts prompted a Fire Weather Watch into Saturday evening. Any spark that reaches the ground could quickly develop into a damaging fire.

The Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Southside zones are in a Fire Weather Watch on Saturday

Showers move in from our west after sunset bringing some much needed rain. While it’s not enough to get us back to average or put out the fires any extra moisture in the ground is very helpful in reducing the fire risk.

Friday night's rain is light, but anything is helpful this weekend

Air quality is poor during the day in particular with slightly better conditions overnight. Expect hazardous conditions in areas near the fire through Saturday.

Air quality is particularly poor in afternoons near the fire

After trailing south on Friday morning smoke turned to the west then north. Changing winds push smoke south again Saturday afternoon.

Smoke trails south Saturday afternoon

Wind gusts on Saturday are one of the main concerns for new and worsening fires. Any fires that start have lots of oxygen to help them spread on Saturday which is why keeping sparks from developing is one of the most helpful things you can do this weekend. Fires are still possible early next week, but the calmer winds mean a reduced chance.

The high wind gusts on Saturday make it the most likely day for new fires

Friday Morning Update

The Weather Authority Alert Day continues through Saturday, due to the Matts Creek fire, poor air quality and the threat for additional fires into the weekend.

The smoke from the Matts Creek fire moves north and northeast Friday. The worst air quality continues to plague parts of Rockbridge County, but it also moves more into the western halves of Amherst and Nelson Counties.

Smoke tracker for Friday, 11/17/2023

A weak front from the west brings in the chance for rain Friday night. While we’ll take it, this will not diminish the drought.

Tracking light rain Friday night into very early Saturday

The fire threat will remain high into the weekend.

Saturday, the wind shifts. This brings smoke from the Matts Creek fire south into Bedford, Campbell and Pittsylvania Counties.

Smoke tracker for Saturday, 11/18/2023

Saturday is also a day when the fire threat is especially high. Wind gusts peak between 25 and 40 mph, while the relative humidity drops off.

Fire threat for Saturday, 11/18/2023

After the weekend, we see a glimmer of hope. A storm system from the southwest likely brings in more rain.

Potential for a soaking rain Tuesday, 11/21/2023

We’ll update you on potential rain totals throughout the weekend and early next week. We’ll cool down and turn drier by Thanksgiving Day.


Thursday Evening Update

Our Weather Authority Alert Day will continue through Saturday with continuing fire and smoke through the night. Air quality is generally better overnight before we turn smoky again after sunrise.

The smoke is coming from the Matts Creek wildfire. As of Thursday evening, the fire had grown to 3,600 acres, which is about the size of 2,727 football fields.

Smoke will stretch north through the afternoon Friday with some ash possible in the air. That lower air quality makes it hard to spend much if any time outside. Anyone with respiratory issues should try to spend as much of the day inside as possible.

Almost all counties in our region are in a burn ban

Our dry conditions get no relief until at least late on Friday. Most counties are in a burn ban to reduce the amount of new fires that could pop up. Do your part to keep fires from developing since it’s very easy for fire to spread right now.

Rain totals are light on Friday night, but anything that helps wet the ground will help cut the spread of the fire. We have to wait until next week for any more substantial rain to arrive.


Thursday Morning Update

Our Weather Authority Alert Day runs all day Thursday, due to the Matts Creek fire on the Bedford-Rockbridge County line. As of 3:15 a.m. Thursday, the fire has burned 2,500 acres and is 0% contained. No homes or buildings are threatened by the flames.

Poor air quality will be seen around the fire Thursday, but that will also be the case in parts of northern Bedford County, Rockbridge County, eastern Alleghany County, eastern Bath County, southern Augusta County, and the western halves of Amherst and Nelson Counties.

The worst air quality will be in the afternoon Thursday, as the wind takes the plume of smoke north.

Where the worst air quality will be Thursday afternoon

Any hope of rain in the near future is minimal, and we’ll have to wait until Friday night to get it. Even at that, rain totals will only be about 0.01″ to 0.1″ in areas near and west of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Limited rain showers Friday night

Beyond that, the wind picks up and humidity drops into Saturday. This could allow the Matts Creek fire to spread more, and it could also allow other fires to develop.

Please do not burn. Hunting season is underway, so there’s concern for hot bullets on the dry ground and fallen foliage. Properly get rid of cigarette butts, if you do smoke.

Exceptionally high fire threat Saturday, 11/18/2023

After the weekend, there’s hope on the horizon. There’s a shot of a widespread, soaking rain that develops Monday night into Tuesday of next week.

Potential for soaking rain Monday night into Tuesday

More to come on that potential as we get closer.


Wednesday Evening Update

A Weather Authority Alert Day has been issued for Thursday, November 16th due to the Matts Creek wildfire.

This afternoon the fire was 1,400 acres...it is now up to 2,500 acres and is 0% contained. Smoke is being reported as far away as Campbell Co. with the bulk of the smoke in Rockbridge, Bedford, and Amherst Counties.

Wildfire update in Bedford County (WSLS)

While the air quality will not be an issue for everyone, areas close to the wildfire will be under a code orange (unhealthy for sensitive groups) or code red (unhealthy for all). That means you may feel some health effects from the smoke, as smoke in the air makes it harder to breathe, especially for those with preexisting conditions. Big Island residents have reported wildfire ash covering their cars. If at all close to the fire, please keep your windows closed and wear a mask if outdoors for any length of time.

Where the worst air quality will be Thursday afternoon

A cold front will approach from the west late on Friday and provide us a chance for some scattered showers. But, this next disturbance does NOT look to have a lot of moisture with it. The mountains will have a better chance to see some light rain than areas in the Piedmont. But, overall this does NOT look to be a drought buster by any means. As a matter of fact, some areas east may see no rain at all from this next weather-maker.

Limited rain showers Friday night

So, while the wildfire threat may decrease a bit on Friday...it goes right up again on Saturday. We will be dry to start out the weekend under increasing sunshine and it will be windy at times too. Gusts up to 30-40 mph will be possible, especially in the mountains. The wind will decrease on Sunday, but even then...we will still be dry.

Brush fire threat through Saturday, 11/18/2023

While the system Friday night will be a dud for some, there is more optimism that a more powerful, more impactful cold front will move in on Tuesday. There are still some question marks about how much rain we will see, but that one will likely bring us a more widespread, beneficial rain than the first storm. Fingers are crossed that needed rain is on the way.

Potential for widespread wet weather next Tuesday

In the meantime, please DO NOT BURN ANYTHING. Burn bans are in effect for the vast majority of us. The air is dry, the ground is dry, and the drought just continues to worsen across the area. A new Drought Monitor comes out on Thursday and is only likely to expand from what we saw in last week’s update. We’ll be sure to share that with you when we first see it.

Current burn bans (WSLS)

About the Authors:

Chief Meteorologist Jeff Haniewich is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News at 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. every weekday.

Lauren Helkowski joined WSLS 10’s digital team in August 2022, but has held a passion for storytelling long before.