June 12, 2013 Updated: June 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm
Concerned about the possibility of erratic winds on Thursday, the National Weather Service will place all of southeast and southern Colorado under a red flag warning, beginning at 11 a.m. The warning will continue until 7 p.m. Thursday, said meteorologist Steve Hodanish, who's statoined at the weather service office in Pueblo.
"It will be more cloudy, which will help and hinder. It will keep things cooler, but it may produce strong, gusty winds that may cause issues along the fire lines," he said.
The alert signifies high fire danger, with increased probability of fire spreading quickly, and residents are urged to be extra careful in the timber-box conditions.
El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs issued fire restrictions on Wednesday, as well, banning open burning. A burn ban imposed nearly a month ago in Teller County remains in effect.
Showers and thunderstorms also may appear Thursday but aren't likely to produce any measurable precipitation, Hodanish said.
Thursday's red flag warning will encompass the counties of El Paso, Teller, Lake, Pueblo, Fremont, Custer, Crowley, Otero, Kiowa, Bent, Prowers, Baca, Las Animas, Huerfano, Costilla, Conejos, Alamosa, Rio Grande, Mineral, Sagauche and Chaffee.
Wednesday's red flag warning, issued for El Paso County shortly before noon, expires at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Hodanish said winds should gradually decrease Wednesday evening and not present much of a problem.
However, smoke will be an issue Wednesday night, as the winds that are blowing will shift and blow north to south, pushing smoke back along the Interstate 25 corridor and into the city. People with respiratory problems are urged to stay indoors and keep the windows closed.
Mostly sunny skies will blanketed the Pikes Peak region Wednesday, with highs ranging from 89 to 92 degrees. The record for June 12 for Colorado Springs is 94 degrees, which National Weather Service meteorologist John Kalina doesn't expect to be broken. But it will be close, he said, with a forecast high of 92 degrees.
In Canon City, where the Royal Gorge fire is raging, the weather service forecasted highs Wednesday also in the upper 80s to mid-90s, with sunny skies and slightly lower southeasterly winds, from 10 to 20 mph. Temperatures for that area will be in the low 50s Wednesday night, with northwest winds at 10 mph, Kalina said.
"We've been highlighting this whole area for days, saying the elevated risk for fire was there, so there are no major surprises," Kalina said.