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Philly looks to have its first rain-free weekend in 2 months

Fire alerts replaced those flood advisories on Friday, and Sunday's weather is looking like a keeper.

Philadelphia Fire Department firefighters working to extinguish a small brush fire off Sweetbriar Lane in Fairmount Park in March. This is the peak wildfire season.
Philadelphia Fire Department firefighters working to extinguish a small brush fire off Sweetbriar Lane in Fairmount Park in March. This is the peak wildfire season.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Flood alerts popped up all over the region earlier this week, and rainfall totals for the last seven days have been about double the long-term normals.

But underscoring that nature’s caprice borders on the infinite, the atmosphere is taking a breather and Philadelphia is poised to experience its first completely rain-free weekend since the end of February.

In fact the air has dried out so precipitously that the National Weather Service issued a fire-danger advisory Friday for Eastern Pennsylvania and all of New Jersey and Delaware. Similar advisories were in effect all the way to southeastern Maine.

» READ MORE: The season got off to a brisk start last March

The dryness and northwest winds of 10 to 15 mph contributed to an “enhanced threat for fire spread,” the weather service said.

This is the heart of the March-to-May peak season for wildfires as foliage and the trees, swelling with leaves, become ever thirstier and quickly consume ground moisture. Parts of South Jersey, where humidity levels fell into the 20s, can be particularly vulnerable, said Dean Iovino, a lead forecaster in the weather service’s Mount Holly office.

“These sandy soils tend to dry out fastest,” he said.

A brush fire was reported along the Garden State Parkway in Somers Point Friday afternoon, and another one near Nockamixon State Park in Upper Bucks County.

So far this year, 497.5 acres have burned in 339 wildfires in the Garden State, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, similar to last year’s totals through April 21 — 513 acres in 385 fires.

For all of 2021, about 6,600 acres burned in wildfires, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Almost all wildfires are caused by humans.

» READ MORE: Major wildfires can happen in the East

The short-term hazard around here should lift Saturday as humidity increases, Iovino said, and Sunday is looking borderline exquisite with highs in the mid-70s and almost wall-to-wall sun, although the streak of weekend days without clear skies — dating to Feb. 27 — is likely to continue.

While dry, Saturday is expected to be mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-60s, which would be just a shade below the normal for the date, 68.

That certainly would be a bit more benign than the weekend outlook in the Northern Plains. Blizzard warnings are up for the western Dakotas and neighboring states for up to 16 inches of snow and 60-mph winds.

A significant cooldown is due in the Philly region the middle of next week, but no blizzard warnings are anticipated, or flood warnings for that matter.

Incidentally, with the recent rains, save for extreme western Chester County the region no longer appears as “abnormally dry” on the updated government drought map.