Irene could soak Dismal Swamp fire

Irene could soak Dismal Swamp fire

22 August 2011

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USA — The Great Dismal Swamp will get the soaking it needs this weekend if Hurricane Irene stays on track, weather forecasters said Monday.

The storm, forecast to reach South Carolina’s coast Saturday morning, could reach Virginia later that day, said Rick Curry, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Wakefield office.

“That’s what we’re all looking for,” Curry said alluding to the 6,000-acre wildfire that has blanketed the air in Hampton Roads and beyond with smoke for nearly three weeks.

The blaze, believed to have been started Aug. 4 by lightning, is fueled by peat, fallen trees and other flammable organic material. Firefighters are, among other things, soaking the ground with water from Lake Drummond to quell the fire.

The size of the fire — more than 6,000 football fields — has prevented firefighters from corralling the blaze. As of Monday, only 15 percent had been contained, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which maintains the swamp.

Hampton Roads received 1.6 inches of rain on Aug. 13, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stop the fire.

Irene or its remnants could provide the rain blast firefighters say is needed to cool the scorched swamp, which resembles a dried up forest.

Irene is forecast to have 100 mph maximum sustained winds, a Category 2 storm, by Thursday evening approximately 100 miles off the coast of Miami. Curry said the forecast is preliminary and much could change during the next few days as the storm is expected to grow.

Storms tend to move northeast up the Atlantic Ocean and away from land but there have been exceptions in recent years, Curry said. Examples include Ida in 2009, which became a nor’easter nicknamed Nor’Ida, Tropical Storm Ernesto in 2006 and Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

Swamp fire

Day 20

426 firefighters

6,004 acres burned

15 percent contained

Source: National Fish and Wildlife Service

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